WASHINGTON — The Nationals entered Sunday’s series finale against the Giants with a short bench and a bullpen that had been taxed by short starts. Their starting lineup had already been adjusted amid injuries, and just moments into their 12-3 loss at Nationals Park, manager Dave Martinez had to make unforeseen adjustments.
By the end of the afternoon, a catcher was playing first base, an infielder had left the game, a starter pitched out of the bullpen and a backup outfielder provided the offense. Take a look at the cause and effect of the changes made around the field.
Cause: Josh Bell was out of the lineup on Sunday after exiting Saturday’s game with right hamstring tightness. His MRI came back clean, but Martinez wanted to give him two days of rest with an upcoming off-day on Monday.
Effect: Maikel Franco shifted to first base from the hot corner, and backup infielder Lucius Fox got the start at third. When asked pregame if catcher Riley Adams — who began participating in first base drills last season — could be an option at first, Martinez said the team wanted him to put in more work there, “But it’s nice to have him be able to play first base in case of emergency.”
Cause: Fox had been dealing with a stomach flu, but he felt better Sunday morning after receiving fluids before the game. During the first at-bat, though, Fox ran from third base and made it as far as next to the pitcher’s mound when he got sick on the field. He left the game, received medical attention and, while still a little dehydrated, “feels a lot better,” according to Martinez.
Effect: Franco moved back to third base in place of Fox, and the Nationals enacted the Adams “in case of emergency” condition for the remainder of the game. Adams had been given the heads up by bench coach Tim Bogar that Fox wasn’t feeling well and there was a chance he would be called upon. He garnered praise from Martinez in his first career appearance at the position, including for his decision-making on closing the gap and tossing the ball to the pitcher covering first versus making an overhand throw.
“It’s way different,” Adams said of live action. “I think in the games, they hit it a little bit harder sometimes. I didn’t get any hot shots today, but I’m confident that, put in that situation, I could be ready and help the team as much as I could.”
Cause: Center fielder Victor Robles was sidelined on Sunday because of a groin issue, which Martinez described as, “Nothing bad, he just cramped up yesterday.” Like with Bell, Martinez wanted Robles to have two consecutive days off before the series opener against the Marlins on Tuesday. He shifted Lane Thomas over to center field and penciled in Yadiel Hernandez in left.
Effect: Hernandez continued to swing a hot bat and connected on his first home run of the season. He went 2-for-4 on the afternoon with three RBIs and a run scored. Hernandez is batting .333 in 10 games this season while making the most of his backup role. Martinez noted, “He can hit.”
“I know my role on this team,” Hernandez said. “I know I’m not going to play that often, so when I do I have to be ready. I do everything possible to prepare and be ready so that I can help the team the day I am asked to play.”
Effect: When Adon exited after four innings, Martinez utilized Rogers out of the bullpen. He faced three batters in the fifth, including left-handers Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Tossing 11 pitches, Rogers got Belt to line out to center, gave up a single into left field to Darin Ruf and induced a Crawford popup to shortstop.
“We wanted to put him in there against those lefties,” Martinez said. “I thought he did well. He got through that part of the order, and he kept us in there.”