Updated at 6:15 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA — The Nationals are miffed at the Phillies after Saturday afternoon’s game began on-time, only to be postponed due to heavy rain that had been forecast all along after only 1 1/2 innings, a decision that forced the Nats to burn up starter Gio Gonzalez and find a fill-in starter for the nightcap of what will now be a Sunday doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park.
Asked how frustrated he was by Saturday’s events, Matt Williams didn’t withhold his emotions.
“Extremely,” the Nationals manager said. “Burned our pitcher. I’m not very happy about it.”
Heavy rain had been forecast all day, with a major system overtaking the entire East Coast, and games in Baltimore and Detroit had already been postponed, with a game in Pittsburgh delayed and a minor-league game in Harrisburg called off. The Phillies, though, elected to start the game on-time at 3:05 p.m., their right as the home team.
And what explanation were the Nationals given to why the game would proceed?
“That it was going to be playable,” Williams said. “The forecast was that it was going to be playable. Clearly it wasn’t.”
The first inning proceeded with only a few sprinkles, but then the rain picked up during the top of the second. By the time that half-inning ended, umpires met with the Citizens Bank Park grounds crew and called for the tarp to cover the infield as both teams retreated to their respective clubhouses.
One hour and 27 minutes later, the game officially was postponed, with the Nationals and Phillies scoreless but having each used their starting pitchers.
Gonzalez threw only one inning for the Nats, needing 18 pitches to complete a scoreless first. Rookie left-hander Adam Morgan tossed two scoreless innings for the Phillies.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Gonzalez, who now can’t pitch again for several days. “You’re put in a tough situation, and it just sucks. I’ve been waiting four days, and that’s what happens. I mean, this rain kind of caught us all off-guard. I mean, we didn’t know it was coming for like three days, so…”
Gonzalez’s sarcastic response represented the tenor throughout the Nationals clubhouse, and even the majority of the Phillies clubhouse, where players expressed shock the game ever began.
The Nationals would have been perfectly fine with a decision to postpone the game before it ever started, given the ominous forecast and the fact they were fielding a makeshift lineup that included only one regular (shortstop Ian Desmond). Outfielders Bryce Harper and Denard Span, plus third baseman Yunel Escobar, all were dealing with nagging injuries that prevented them from playing Saturday.
They also would have preferred the rainout be made up in September rather than Sunday’s scheduled 1:05 p.m. doubleheader, because now they must both find a fill-in starting pitcher while also playing two games back-to-back with an injury-plagued roster of position players.
Williams said Stephen Strasburg will start Sunday’s opener as originally planned. The Nationals won’t name their starter for the nightcap until the first game ends.
MLB allows teams to add a 26th player from the minors for the second game of doubleheaders, but the Nationals may not necessarily send that player to the mound to start Game 2. If Strasburg pitches deep into the first game, Tanner Roark could possibly start the second game, with a call-up available out of the bullpen.
“It depends on where we’re at and what we’re doing,” Williams said. “We’ll see how Game 1 goes and adjust from there. But we have to get through the first one first.”
The Nationals have a few options for that 26th position. Joe Ross, who impressed during his first three career starts earlier this month, just started Thursday for Class AAA Syracuse, which takes him out of consideration. Right-hander Taylor Jordan was scheduled to start Saturday night for the Chiefs in Indianapolis but was scratched about an hour before first pitch, likely setting him up to fly to Philadelphia and join the Nationals.
The Phillies will stick with scheduled starter Kevin Correia in Game 1 and will call up right-hander Severino Gonzalez to start the nightcap, which will begin 25 minutes after the first game ends.