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Nats getting by despite makeshift lineup

Jun 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

USA Today Sports Images

PHILADELPHIA — The Nationals submitted a lineup for Saturday’s game against the Phillies that featured only one player projected to start on Opening Day (Ian Desmond) hitting in a spot he rarely has held in his career (third).

Such is life for Matt Williams right now, with six of his regular position players currently out due to injury, plus catcher Wilson Ramos needing a day off after starting four consecutive nights.

“It’s opportunity,” the second-year manager said. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s an opportunity for Clint [Robinson] to play, and for [Tyler Moore] to play and for Matt den Dekker to get in there and hit a 2-run homer to seal it for us. … You gotta do what you gotta do, right? That’s how we play it.”

The Nationals have managed to win seven consecutive games despite the injuries, thanks to some dominant pitching and contributions from bench players, but they do recognize they can’t go on forever with a lineup as depleted as this.

In that regard, Williams is hopeful none of Saturday’s scratches will miss significant time. Bryce Harper (strained right hamstring) might have played if not for the rainy conditions at Citizens Bank Park that left the outfield grass slick. Denard Span (back spasms) was moving around much better after having to miss Friday’s game with the recurring condition. And X-rays taken of Yunel Escobar’s left hand were negative, though it remained swollen Saturday after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning the previous night.

So the Nationals didn’t feel the need to make a roster move Saturday, bringing up another position player for their game against the Phillies.

“As of today, no,” Williams said. “I think we’re OK. Both Harp and Spanny are day-to-day. So it’s not like there’s a long-term issue with either of them.”

As for Escobar, there are no immediate plans to have him get an MRI on his hand.

“Not unless it continues to be sore,” Williams said. “Right now, standard process is to get an X-ray, see how he is the next day, treat it, give him a day off. And then if the swelling goes down and he’s got some function and feels better, then we don’t necessarily go there unless he doesn’t feel well.”

Thus, the Nationals’ lineup Saturday featured one regular, Desmond, batting third despite his current .226 batting average, .268 on-base percentage and .616 OPS. He did bat third 11 times previously in his career, though his numbers in that position (.116/.208/.116) are even worse.

Through it all, though, the Nationals continue to win games. They entered Saturday on a 7-game winning streak, having opened up a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East. That provides some comfort to the otherwise nervous Williams.

“With the current state of our club, I don’t get a whole lot of enjoyment out of most things right now,” he said with a laugh. “I enjoy winning. And the fact that our guys that are not the regular guys but are in the lineup and are doing well and we’ve been able to win some games, that’s enjoyable. But it’s stressful when you have to try to see if we can get guys going for the game. Guys getting hit in the hand and having to come out. And having a pitcher going up to pinch-hit when you have four other guys on the bench who are position players but you don’t want to use them. That’s not fun. That’s not the fun part of it. It’s the challenging part of it.”

  1. ArVAFan - Jun 27, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    Can we get all these injuries out of the way while we’re playing the Phillies? Just hoping. Or better yet, NOT playing the Phillies until tomorrow (much as I would like to listen to a game).

    • nataddicted - Jun 27, 2015 at 2:32 PM

      From NOAA, Philadelphia forecast:

      This Afternoon
      Rain likely. Cloudy, with a high near 75. Southeast wind around 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

    • natsfan1a - Jun 27, 2015 at 2:43 PM

      Well, maybe, as long as they have speedy and full recoveries. Um, has Clancy (if memory serves) the kitten been playing with anybody’s bobblehead lately? 🙂

      • ArVAFan - Jun 27, 2015 at 2:52 PM

        Yes, since you mention it. Clancy tried to steal bobble-Desmond’s bat last week. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 27, 2015 at 2:55 PM

        lol! Nice work, kitty!

  2. iconicwoodencap - Jun 27, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    “getting by” may not cut it for long. It seems the Phillies are TRYING to be the worst team in baseball (they may have some competition from the Marlins soon). Can you say draft picks?

    One of the upsides is these injuries are not happening in late August. Another is
    (as others have mentioned) that the bench is getting a lot of playing time. This is only going to help them contribute all season.

    I remember commentators pointing out that one of the drawbacks of a cake-walk division win would be a lack of “battle-tested” toughness. This team is sure facing adversity this year and proving to be deep, tough and resilient. I like the energy and hope they keep grinding battling playing with heart and tenacity.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 27, 2015 at 4:04 PM

      All that. But I’m still glad they aren’t in the Central.

  3. philipd763 - Jun 27, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    There are way too many injuries and they are occurring at an increasing rate. Management should take a hard look at the training staff and its procedures.

    • dryw4nats - Jun 27, 2015 at 5:26 PM

      Agreed that there are too many injuries, but I’m not sure what the training staff can do about the two guys hit in the hand by pitches or the one with plantar fascitis. And if you take those three out of the equation, it’s not nearly so many injuries to consider pinning to the training staff.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 27, 2015 at 9:34 PM

        DL scorecard to this point

        Werth HBP
        Escobar HBP
        Zim Plantar fasciitis
        Harper Pulled hamstring
        Span back spasms
        Rendon left quadriceps
        Johnson Foot
        McLouth shoulder, last year
        Stammen flexor tendon surgery
        Barrett right bicep strain

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 27, 2015 at 9:36 PM

        Betcha forgot about Reed Johnson, didn’t you?
        😉

    • cvillegoodtimes - Jun 29, 2015 at 10:08 AM

      I do not understand why teams do not purchase an x-ray machine and an MRI and have them at the stadium. The team doctor could do tests easily and quickly just to make sure everything is ok. The team doctor is there already. I know it would be an expense, but how much money is wasted every time and player misses extra games, or plays injured when he didn’t realize the extent of the injury?

  4. rabbit433 - Jun 28, 2015 at 7:48 AM

    There is actually nothing wrong with Desmond’s hitting, that is when he hits the ball. If he eliminated half of his strikeouts, which he is improving on, he is fine. Without half of the strikeouts he would be hitting around .275 or better. Lately it does seem like he is resolving the strikeout problem. I hope he can pull an Espi.!!

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