ATLANTA — A starting pitcher who began the season in Triple-A, a third baseman who had not homered since last July and a team offense that had struggled to produce runs. Add it all up, and it was the equation for the Nationals’ head-turning 11-2 victory over the defending World Series champion Braves on Monday at Truist Park.
“It was awesome,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We struggled a little bit the first few games. We got a big win [against the Mets] the other day, and then to come here and play these guys — who are very good — to jump out like we did and score as many runs as we did was a good day. A good first game of a series.”
With right-hander Aníbal Sánchez scratched from his start and placed on the 10-day injured list Monday with a cervical nerve impingement, the Nationals recalled southpaw Josh Rogers to make his return to the bigs after less than a week in Triple-A. Rogers, who competed for a spot in the starting rotation in camp, was optioned to Rochester last Tuesday after the Nats’ final Spring Training game.
“We want to make sure that if something does happen to one of our starters, that we have viable options,” Martinez said at the time. “He’s definitely one of them, if not the first one.”
Rogers was informed on Friday his first Triple-A start would be scratched. He threw a bullpen on Saturday and then flew to Atlanta on Sunday afternoon to rejoin the Nats. With the initial roster move behind him, Rogers focused on seizing the opportunity like he did last year when he impressed in six late-season starts.
“I think I would be lying if I said I wasn’t mad or down,” Rogers said. “I’m competitive and wanted to make the team, just like everybody else. It is what it is – just take it and go to Triple-A and just do what I do and have a good attitude and turn the page. I was mad for 12 hours, wake up the next day and it’s all about the process and it’s part of it. Obviously, [I was] super pumped to get back up here and to be able to get the ball tonight and throw it.”
Rogers delivered the Nationals’ longest outing of the season: 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts over 74 pitches (46 strikes). After allowing an RBI single to Marcell Ozuna in the first inning, Rogers retired the next 10 batters, including three consecutive 1-2-3 frames.
“The key with him is attacking the strike zone early,” Martinez said. “When he gets ahead, he keeps fighting, keeps getting outs and his attitude, his attitude out there is just pumped up, so it’s fun to watch him pitch. But he did a great job today.”
With Atlanta’s bats quieted, Rogers got an assist from his teammates with a five-run third inning in the Nats’ highest-scoring game since Aug. 17, 2021. In his pursuit of a turnaround season, Maikel Franco went 4-for-5 with five RBIs and his first homer of the year. Lane Thomas also added a trio of RBIs. Martinez noted both were effective by staying ready to hit fastballs.
The Nats collectively out-hit the Braves, 15 to four, as the bullpen of Víctor Arano, Hunter Harvey and Patrick Murphy held them to one run. This, an encouraging sign one day after relievers Steve Cishek, Sean Doolittle, Kyle Finnegan and Tanner Rainey shut down the Mets’ offense in a 4-2 win.
“They swung it great tonight and put up runs,” Rogers said. “To get a crooked number there and just to get them back in there as fast as possible was kind of what I wanted to do. … [They] made my job pretty easy tonight having the run support.”