WASHINGTON — Washington Nationals (29-22) reliever Tanner Rainey has his fair share of pitching woes this season. Rainey entered the third game of a four game weekend series against the Miami Marlins (25-28), on Sunday with a lousy 8.05 ERA after being roughed up for two runs in a third of an inning Friday night.
After 7 ⅔ shutout innings from Washington’s starter Max Scherzer, manager Davey Martinez called on Rainey to finish the inning. With a runner on first, Rainey completed his task by striking out Miami right fielder Harold Ramirez to keep the game tied at zero.
With right-hander Daniel Hudson and lefty Roenis Elías warming up and ready to take the mound for the ninth, Martinez stuck with his hard throwing but oft-wild Rainey.
Martinez’s decision to stick with Rainey didn’t pan out.
Rainey, who struck out Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro to start the ninth, quickly surrendered a loud double to the next batter, Isan Díaz. Entrusting Rainey to complete the inning, Martinez allowed Rainey to remain in the game and pitched to the pinch-hitting Matt Kemp. The 27-year-old reliever successfully got the power-hitting Kemp to ground out to first baseman Eric Thames, but not before Díaz scampered to third.
With two outs, Marlins manager Don Mattingly called for a questionable suicide squeeze with speedster Jonathan Villar up at the dish. Villar already had a single under his belt which extended his season-long hit streak to 11 games. As Díaz took off for home and Villar squared to bunt, Rainey spiked a first-pitch slider in the dirt allowing the ball to scoot away from catcher Yan Gomes. Díaz scored standing up to put the Marlins up 1-0.
“It is what it is,” Martinez said. “Aside from the spiked slider, he did his job. If the offense had put up a run or two, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
The offense struggled for the second straight game. The Nationals have only scored three times in the past 18 innings — all three runs came in the eighth inning, yesterday. Across those 18 innings, Washington has scattered 10 hits. Both Thames and right fielder Adam Eaton combined to record half of those hits. Thames recorded the only extra-base hit for the Nationals Sunday afternoon, an opposite field double that went against the overshift.
“We’ve got to do our jobs,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “It’s not fair to the pitching staff. They work their tails off.”
The Marlins, on the other hand, forced Scherzer to work almost exclusively out of the stretch. Scherzer only set the side down in order, once as he scattered eight hits and three walks on 111 pitches — 65 strikes. Scherzer didn’t have his best stuff, only racking up four strikeouts, and mainly relied on his defense to keep him in the game.
Scherzer had his fair share of tough jams as Miami twice threatened to score after loading the bases with two outs in the second and put two runners in scoring position with two outs in the third. In the second, Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara flew out to right field to end the threat and Brian Anderson stranded two runners on second and third by striking out in the third.
The Nationals had a rally of their own in the fifth when the bottom of the lineup loaded the bases for Scherzer who flew out to center to end the threat. With two outs and the pitcher at the plate, Martinez squandered the club’s only opportunity by sending Scherzer to the plate instead of pinch-hitting for Scherzer, who’s hitless on the season.
“Scherzer was pitching well on the mound,” Martinez said. “The bullpen pitched 11 innings yesterday and the day before, they needed as much time off as possible. I thought we were going to break out in a big way later in the game.”
Meanwhile, Alcantara rolled through the Nats lineup, allowing only five baserunners —three hits and two walks— with four strikeouts in six innings of work. Relievers Brad Boxberger, Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Cook all worked the final three innings, allowing one hit, as Kintzler picked up the win and Cook picked up his 16th save of the season.
The Nationals, averaging just over four runs-per-game, good for 16th best in the league, will look to get the offense back on track during tomorrow’s final game of the four game set.
“The pitching has been dominant,” Martinez said. “The offense just has to pick up the slack. We’ll be okay.”
*Disclaimer: This series is a simulated version of the 2020 Washington Nationals season on MLB The Show. This is for fun and not to be taken seriously. Player and manager quotes are fake and made up to add realism.
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