Shorthanded Nationals need bats to come alive at Cardinals

MLB Baseball

The pandemic-depleted Washington Nationals will try to snap a five-game losing streak when they visit the St. Louis Cardinals starting Monday.

The Nationals have been shut out in three of their last four games.

“We’re playing hard. We’ve been in lots of these ballgames,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said after the Los Angeles Dodgers blanked his team 3-0 Sunday. “Today we were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. We’re missing some big bats in our lineup. Keep battling. That’s all we can do.”

Martinez hopes the remaining players sidelined in COVID-19 protocol will return shortly. First baseman Josh Bell, second baseman Josh Harrison and outfielder Kyle Schwarber should bolster the offense once they can play.

Jon Lester should strengthen the starting rotation when he returns. While Lester works his way back from his COVID-19 shutdown, Erick Fedde (0-1, 27.00 ERA) will hold his spot.

Fedde will seek a bounce-back performance Monday. He allowed six runs, five earned, during a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on April 7.

“When I’m at my best, I’m sinking the ball down in the zone and building off of that,” Fedde said after that game. “Just never really was able to get that pitch established.”

Fedde allowed four runs in five innings during his one career start against the Cardinals in 2018.

John Gant (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will also make his second start of the season for the Cardinals. He is 1-1 with a 4.61 ERA in six career appearances against the Nationals, including three starts.

Gant didn’t allow an earned run in four innings during a 4-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on April 6. But he allowed four hits, walked three batters, and needed 82 pitches to retire 12 hitters.

“Got to do a better job of getting deeper into that game and saving some bullets from those guys,” Gant said, referring to the bullpen.

On Sunday, starting pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon did not survive the second inning of a 9-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Through nine games, Cardinals relievers have worked more innings than the starters.

“It’s not a sustainable model,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “The off days have helped, the bullpen has been great, but we’ve got to get deeper and further along with our starters so we can actually use our bullpen how we’d like to use it instead of putting guys in positions because they are the most rested. That’s not a great recipe.”

Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill landed on the 10-day injured list Sunday with a groin muscle strain he sustained Saturday. Lane Thomas moved up from the taxi squad to take his spot on the roster.

Thomas could see a lot of action in center field. That would allow Dylan Carlson to slide over to right field, where he figures to spend the bulk of his career.

Austin Dean could see regular work in left field after driving in five runs in his last two games. Tommy Edman could move from second base to the outfield at times, creating more at bats for Matt Carpenter.

“I think you’ll see some (lineup) fluidity,” Shildt said. “You’ve got three games coming up with righties. We’ll see what that looks like and game plan accordingly.”

–Field Level Media

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