Nats off the schneid as they get their starting lineup back and notch the win!

Graphic by Izzy Rendell

The Nats got Josh Bell, Josh Harrison and Kyle Schwarber back from the IL for this game, and each contributed in this 5-2 win. That 5-game losing streak is over. It was Erick Fedde who started the game, and only gave up one run over 4 2/3 innings. Fedde’s fastball was blazing and over 96 mph twice in the game, and he carved through the middle of the Cardinals order in the second inning by striking out the side. 

“I didn’t want to over-panic, or immediately say one bad outing was going to be something that was going to make me change everything and hit the panic button,” Fedde said. “Nobody wants to start the year off the way I did. You just can’t let it snowball. I tried my best to not allow that happen, and luckily today — things went really well.”

Sure, the game should have been a blowout by the Nats given the 16 runners on-base that they had in the night. Also credit to the Nats bullpen as they only yielded one run over 4 1/3 innings.

The game opened on a triple by Victor Robles, and he was knocked in by Juan Soto who had 3 hits on the night. Kyle Schwarber had 2 hits, Josh Bell had 1 hit and 2 walks for his Nats debut game.

“I felt like a lot of guys had great at-bats the whole night; working deep counts and making that guy grind out there,” Schwarber said. “That’s contagious. Making that pitcher grind, if you get a five-, six- or seven-pitch at-bat, you move on to that next guy and he might get that mistake.”

Add to that a pinch-hit home run by Andrew Stevenson who is the only player besides Soto and Trea Turner to club a homer this season for the Nats. Also, Starlin Castro took the team lead with 6 RBIs for the season as he had two big ribeyes in this game.

“I think it’s one of my goals to try to put the ball in play because for the most part I’m going to have [runners] on-base probably every at-bat,” Castro said. “That’s kind of the approach I’m working on with [hitting coach Kevin Long]. Just get ahead in the count quick and look for a pitch to hit right away. Instead of taking pitches, be ready to hit right away, because maybe it’s going to be my pitch that I can drive the guy home.”

It was good to see Brad Hand notch his first save of the season in a bullpen that was good sans a solo home run given up by Kyle Finnegan. Manager Dave Martinez showed a lot of faith in going to Tanner Rainey for the 7th inning, and he notched a zero which was followed up by a Daniel Hudson perfect 8th inning.

Fortunately, Fedde was up to the task in this game, and he only gave up two hits — one by a bunt against the shift and another on a grounder that made it through the infield. He was throwing at max effort from the start and probably the reason he ran out of gas in the 5th inning. Martinez was wise to pull Fedde at that point with the lead, and that will allow him to go into his next start with some confidence.

With this win, the Nats improved to 2-5 on the season at a point when they really needed a win. On the downside, there were some bizarre moments like a send on a shallow flyball tagup when Kyle Schwarber was thrown out by several feet — and you wonder, did third base coach Bob Henley really send Schwarber with bases loaded and Robles on-deck? Add to that, some poor bunt attempts by Harrison and Robles. Fortunately, the Nats won the game and those plays just became strange footnotes on a night where the Nats really dominated in this game.

Obviously the pre-game news that the Nats got back all of their players from the COVID list, but Jon Lester was a boost to the team and all three of the returning players seemed to get their timing back during the mid-game which paid huge dividends.

“It extends our lineup and extends our bench,” Martinez said. “You can tell when things start clicking, they start feeding off of one another. One guy gets on, the next guy wants to get on, the next guy wants to drive them in, and it keeps going on and on and on.”

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