Game #65 for today, Paolo Espino takes Max Scherzer’s spot in the rotation

Nationals Park, Washington, D.C. | Paolo Espino records a strikeout for the final out of the 2020 season; Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

Today was supposed to be Max Scherzer‘s turn in the rotation, but he was scratched and placed on the 10-day IL yesterday with groin inflammation. In his place, RHP Paolo Espino will pitch as deep as he can in this game and then turn it over to the Washington Nationals bullpen. With Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Austin Voth, Will Harris and Daniel Hudson on the IL, the team essentially has six replacement players up that include Espino, Kyle McGowin, Sam Clay, Ryne HarperJustin Miller, and Jefry Rodriguez. Some of these players have a chance to solidify themselves to stay in the mix. 

This afternoon, Luis Garcia was called up after Starlin Castro was placed on the league’s restricted list. Castro, departed to deal with personal issues with his family, and this is a team excused absence known as a ‘leave of absence’ in regular jobs.

“He has some family matters that he needs to attend to,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We talked last night and I just want him to go and handle those matters.”

We knew Garcia was pulled last night from the Triple-A Rochester game, and many times that is an indicator that a roster move is about to happen. Sure enough — it did. Castro has certainly been struggling for some time and has the worst Fangraphs positional WAR on the team at -0.4. Since May 14th when he was batting .309, Castro has fallen off a cliff and is slashing .162/.210/ .216/ .426, and for the entire season, he has been in a power drain with a .312 SLG for the season. Currently his season’s OPS stands at .599.

For the infielder who just turned 21 last month, Garcia has a .306 batting average against MLB right-handers. He has proven he can hit righties, and it is the southpaws he has struggled against. The good news is that the Nats have both Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison who hit lefties well. This could be a good situation for the Nats’ manager to start Garcia against righties and that is what will happen tonight with Mercer playing third base.

The Pirates will pitch the righty Chase De Jong in this series finale. None of the Nats’ players have any MLB history against the 27 year old. He relies on his 4-seam fastball (53.1%), and will work in a mix of sliders and curveballs. His fastball averages 92.6 mph, and batters have killed it for a .629 SLG this season. He will pitch his fastball up in the zone and when he misses his spots the batter must pounce. He throws a backdoor curve to lefties and inside to righties, and the slider he tries to work lefties down at the knees.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch:  4:05  pm EDT
TV: MASN, AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh, MLB Network out-of-market only, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)

Line-ups subject to change without notice:

1. Kyle Schwarber LF
2. Trea Turner SS
3. Juan Soto RF
4. Josh Bell 1B
5. Yan Gomes C
6. Luis Garcia 2B
7. Jordy Mercer 3B
8. Victor Robles CF
9. Paolo Espino RHP

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