Game #61 Tanner Roark vs Tampa’s bullpen

The top of the order needs to get the offense going!

With the Tampa Bay Rays dealing with injuries to two of their starters (Archer and Banda), they appear to have named lefty Jonny Venters their starter — but this will be more of a pieced together bullpen start. He has never started a game before and is a 3-time Tommy John survivor with a total of four ulnar-collateral-ligament injuries to what he self-describes as 3 1/2 TJ surgeries. How long Venters stays in this game is a guess that even Tampa’s manager Kevin Cash might not even know. The furthest Venters has gone in a game is 1 2/3 innings back on May 18th. He last pitched 1/3 of an inning in a 3-pitch LOOGY appearance 3-days ago. 

For the Nationals, they have Tanner Roark starting today in a rotation that will be a 4-man crew for a while as Jeremy Hellickson was placed on the 10-day DL. Roark started 6-days ago in Atlanta and also pitched the 9th inning on Sunday and took the loss in Atlanta. With two losses in the last week, Roark needs to make sure three times is the charm to get a win for his team. Neither appearance in Atlanta was inspiring as Roark was doing a lot of nibbling early in his start last Thursday, and in his relief appearance in a tie game he only got one out before serving up a 2-run walk-off home run to the Braves.

For Nationals manager Dave Martinez, he could throw a bullpen game today also — but he won’t. Davey has nine bullpen arms available after adding Matt Grace back to the line-up and off-days on Monday and tomorrow and the fact that Max Scherzer went 8.0 full innings last night saving all but Sean Doolittle last night although Ryan Madson did warm-up and was not used. Scherzer was so pitch efficient last night that he averaged 12-pitches per inning.

Clearly, the production from the top of the Washington Nationals order is lacking. The duo of Harper and Rendon in the № 2 and № 3 spots in the line-up have not scored a run or driven in a run since the calendar turned from May to June. Bryce Harper is in a 2-for-18 slump with an eye-popping 10 strikeouts and only one walk. Anthony Rendon is in a 1-for-16 funk with 6 strikeouts and one walk. Harper was given the day-off on Sunday to give him back-to-back days off with Monday’s team off-day. Trea Turner in the lead-off is 3-for-22 but has helped in scoring while having his career worst game on Saturday.

What the Nationals need is for this trio at the top of the order to get it going again. In order to do that, they must adjust.  Harper and Turner have been consistently pitched on the outside edges. Yes, the umpires have seemed to widen the strike zone at times, but both batters need to cozy up to the plate. Last night, we saw that from Turner who sent two balls into the opposite field and were both caught, but Harper has not made any adjustments and his K-rate is at alarming levels.

The good news is that great pitching and offense from the bottom of the Nationals order has been carrying the team enough to win two of the last three games, but since this top-of-the-order funk started, the Nationals are 2 wins and 3 losses with just 17 RBIs in 7 games which is just 2.43 runs-batted-in per game. Is it time for some more small ball and shortening up swings? Maybe the top of the order batters could learn something from their teenage teammate, Juan Soto, who is doing what needs to be done going 4-for-12 with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts.

Today is a get-away game for Tampa which means there is a 1:05pm start time.

Breaking update (2:56 PM): “Source: Seth Romero is already and physically with Hagerstown. For some reason, Nationals…” — First mentioned that Romero was assigned to Hagerstown by Chelsea Janes.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch:  1:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN2; MLB App out-of-market
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app

Line-ups subject to change without notice:

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