By BRIAN ABATE, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Despite having only played six games, the Washington Nationals were already facing adversity on Tuesday when shortstop Trea Turner suffered a broken pinky as Bryce Harper returned to the nation’s capital with the Phillies and helped crush his former team.
The Nationals fell to 2-4 and ace Max Scherzer dropped to 0-2. But the team bounced back Wednesday with a 9-8 come-from-behind walk-off win over the Phillies, followed Thursday by a shutout victory over the Mets.
Washington Nationals’ Trea Turner heads to the clubhouse during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Washington. Turner left in the first inning after being struck by a pitch on his right index finger while trying to bunt. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Manger Dave Martinez challenged his team after Turner’s injury and the players responded with victories, showing signs that they could power through the loss of their shortstop.
“We had the walk-off the other day with Trea and now this one,” said utility man Jake Noll after his game-ending walk that scored a run Wednesday.
Even after beating their division rivals, the Nationals spoke about how important Turner is to the team.
“Anytime you lose your starting shortstop for an extended period of time, especially a player as talented as Trea, it’s tough to swallow,” Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals first baseman told the Washington Post after the game.
“It’s a big loss,” said Martinez in his postgame press conference.
The Nationals have not yet announced a timetable for Turner’s return but he is expected to miss significant time and has already been placed on the injured list (IL).
Before being sidelined, Turner already had hit a walk-off home run for the Nationals and led the league with four stolen bases. He played every game last season, hitting 19 homers, knocking in 73 runs, scoring 103 runs, and leading the National League with 43 stolen bases.
Turner was not happy with the pitch that injured him.
“I don’t expect somebody to basically throw at my head,” Turner said after the game, while explaining why he wasn’t able to avoid getting hit.
Martinez sounded sullen at his press conference.
“The ball was in and he just couldn’t get out of the way,” Martinez said.
Turner’s injury took some of the spotlight off of star pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Many analysts were concerned that Strasburg’s fastball, which is known for reaching 100 mph, topped out at approximately 94 mph in a loss to the Mets in his first start of the season.
Strasburg got a second chance against the Mets in his second start of the season and eased those concerns by shutting the Mets down.
“If your strengths are their strengths, you kind of have to go mano a mano,” Strasburg told the Washington Post after the victory.
The strategy paid off as he allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out nine over 6.2 innings in the 4-0 victory.
The Nationals also finally received some good news regarding other injuries. Utility man Howie Kendrick has been activated from the IL after missing the start of the season with a hamstring injury.
Last season, Kendrick batted .303 in 40 games with the Nationals and provided versatility by playing first base, second base, left field and right field. The Nationals optioned Noll to the minors when they activated Kendrick.
Patrick Corbin is expected to start the next Nationals game against the Mets in New York on Saturday.
The 29-year-old lefty signed a six-year, $140 million deal over the offseason. He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks and has 56-54 career record with a 3.91 ERA.
“I’m excited to join this ball club and be a part of something special,” said Corbin at his introductory press conference.
Corbin is looking for his first win with the Nationals after getting a no-decision in his first start with them.