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NEW YORK — It was, by any definition, a weird Tuesday afternoon in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse at Citi Field. A prospect woke up at 4:45 a.m. to fly from Erie, Pa., to Charlotte, then from Charlotte to LaGuardia, so he could throw a bit before making his major league debut against the first-place New York Mets on Wednesday. A reliever who has been in the organization since 2013 was designated for assignment, changing from his workout gear to the clothes of someone between jobs. Two other relievers arrived from Rochester, N.Y., while another was sent there after throwing 46 pitches in Queens on Monday. A bunch of guys sat around and laughed over a big lunch spread. At one point, Lil Baby’s “Sum 2 Prove” was cranked so loud that the walls and floor shook with each thump of the bass.
And then the Nationals lost again, 10-0, to the Mets (34-17). And shortstop Alcides Escobar exited with a right hamstring injury after making a diving play in the fourth inning.
Escobar was helped off the field by Manager Dave Martinez and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard. After the defeat, Martinez said the club would get an infielder moving from Rochester — perhaps Lucius Fox or Luis García — just in case Escobar couldn’t suit up for the series finale. Yet through a team interpreter, Escobar downplayed the issue, saying it was a cramp and shouldn’t require an injured list stint.
The Nationals (18-33) didn’t hit and were buried by seven runs charged to Patrick Corbin. The Mets tagged Corbin with 12 hits and logged 17 overall.
“I’ll try to look at it tomorrow and see what things I could have done differently,” Corbin said before offering a familiar refrain. “But it’s frustrating, especially when you feel pretty good.”
Evan Lee, that 24-year-old prospect, will try to keep the Nationals from getting swept Wednesday afternoon. Austin Voth, the DFA’d reliever, may finish a five-year stretch in Washington with a 10.13 ERA over 18⅔ innings this year. After the bullpen was taxed Monday — with Voth and Andres Machado struggling — the Nationals called up Jordan Weems and Francisco Pérez. To make room, Voth was cut and Machado was optioned to Class AAA Rochester, where he was until getting promoted last weekend.
Lee, a lefty, was a two-way player at Arkansas and a 15th-round draft pick in 2018. This spring, he has a 3.60 ERA in seven starts with Class AAA Harrisburg, maxing out at 5⅔ innings May 14. Voth, 29, heads to waivers and has a week to be traded or claimed by another team. If neither happens, he’s likely to choose between free agency and a minor league assignment with the Nationals. But that wasn’t it for moving parts ahead of first pitch.
Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session and is slated to make his third rehab start Friday, pitching for Rochester against Buffalo. The target is six innings and 80 to 85 pitches. Joe Ross, once Strasburg’s recovery partner, opted to undergo Tommy John surgery on a to-be-determined date. But before sharing those updates, Martinez was asked about Lee being at the park Tuesday.
To clear space for Lee, Pérez was optioned back to Rochester following the game after yielding a two-run homer to Eduardo Escobar in a 32-pitch sixth. Weems, by contrast, retired the Mets in order in the seventh, striking out Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso. But since Lee wasn’t officially on the roster before the game, Martinez only smiled and told reporters, “Don’t assume nothing.”
Sure. That about summed it up. Some five hours later, though, Martinez was ready to announce his plans.
“Evan Lee will pitch for us [Wednesday],” he said. “If he gives us three or four innings, I think we’ll be in great shape. The big thing for me is that we have to score.”
How did the Mets get to Corbin? Starling Marte’s two-run homer in the first followed Mark Canha’s leadoff single. Alonso, J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil and Luis Guillorme singled in a span of five batters in the third. A four-run rally in the fifth started with Corbin on the mound and ended with him hooked for reliever Erasmo Ramírez.
By the end of three innings, Corbin had thrown 73 of his 106 pitches. For his homer, Marte rocked a low sinker 431 feet to center. For his two-run single, Guillorme used new life after the umpires overturned a hit-by-pitch call, ruling an errant sinker hit the knob of his bat. Corbin’s night included two walks, six strikeouts and 14 base runners compared with 13 outs recorded. His ERA jumped from 6.30 to 6.96. The last three runs on his line scored on hits off Ramírez.
Where was the Nationals’ offense? For five innings, the Nationals were in the palm of Trevor Williams’s right hand. For the final four, they were limited by relievers Drew Smith, Joely Rodríguez and Adonis Medina.
Williams continued to have his way with Juan Soto. After walking and reaching on an error, Soto is 1 for 14 with five walks against him. Williams threw 80 pitches and kept the Nationals’ off balance with a steady mix of fastballs, change-ups, sliders and curves. Their six hits were collected by Strange-Gordon (three), Maikel Franco (two) and Josh Bell.
Why was Nelson Cruz not in the lineup? Cruz, 41, is nursing a contusion above his left ankle. The injury occurred when Mets starter David Peterson plunked him in the first inning of Monday’s series opener. In his place, Yadiel Hernandez was the designated hitter Tuesday and finished 0 for 4 with a strikeout.
After struggling for most of the young season, Cruz entered the week 16 for 36 (.444) with five doubles in his past 10 games. Next, Washington will look for a healthy return and the power that was supposed to come with his one-year, $15 million deal.
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