Nationals trade two pitchers, lose to Brewers
The Nationals continue to say goodbye to their veterans, as one reliever was traded Friday while a starting pitcher appears to be also on the move as the one-time World Series favorites plan for 2019.
And the two-time defending division champions continue to sputter on the field, as the visiting Milwaukee Brewers hit homers in the first three innings off starter and loser Tanner Roark and defeated Washington 4-1 on Friday night as rain fell in the late innings.
The third-place Nationals (67-68) entered Friday 7 games back of first-place Atlanta and 4 games behind second-place Philadelphia in the National League East.
Before the game, the Nationals traded veteran reliever Ryan Madson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league pitcher Andrew Istler, who is not a top 30 prospect.
And during the game, several outlets reported that Gio Gonzalez, a starter for the Nationals since 2012, had been dealt across the field to those same Brewers. Television cameras repeatedly showed Gonzalez in the Washington dugout during the game.
“I love how they kind of understand I am one of theirs. I never want to lose that feeling with this organization,” Gonzalez told The Washington Times in early August of Nationals fans.
Gonzalez made his last appearance for the Nationals on Wednesday in Philadelphia against the Phillies. He was a durable lefty who won at least 10 games each season in D.C. but couldn’t come through in postseason play.
Since the end of July the Nationals have traded veterans Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Kintzler and now Madson and Gonzalez, saving the club millions of dollars.
In the wild card race the Nationals trailed five teams going into the game: St. Louis (75-59), Milwaukee (75-60), Colorado (72-61), Los Angeles (72-72) and Philadelphia (71-62).
The unlikely road to the playoffs got off to another bad start Friday as Travis Shaw of the Brewers hit a two-run homer in the first for a 2-0 lead.
The Nationals made it 2-1 as Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a groundout in the first off Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin (14-5) who gave just that one run in 6 1/3 innings.
Brewers catcher Erik Kratz hit a solo homer to make it 3-1 in the second. Kratz is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and about 40 EMU fans made a bus trip of about 120 miles to the game.
Jesus Aguilar also got into the longball act in the third, crushing another Roark (8-14) pitch into the left field bleachers as the Brewers led 4-1.
Bryce Harper struck out with bases loaded in the last of the ninth for the second out before Rendon came to the plate and was retired on a grounder.
The Nationals bullpen was without Madson, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland A’s in July 2017. “It was a huge jolt to my career. My stuff got so much better,” he said of playing here.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez was sad to see Madson go. “He was the consummate professional,” Martinez said.
Also before the game closer Sean Doolittle, on the disabled list with a toe injury, threw 15 pitches off the mound at Nationals Park. “I just want to get back. We still have a month left,” said Doolittle, a former University of Virginia standout.
His arrival may be too late as the Nationals fall further beyond.
“We have to go out there and compete. We have been playing really well,” said Martinez, though a 14-15 mark this month and a record of 34-46 since late May would say otherwise.
The series continues Saturday at 7:05 p.m. as Stephen Strasburg (7-7, 4.15) will face righty Chase Anderson (9-7, 4.04) of the Brewers. The Sunday finale will have Jefry Rodriguez (2-1, 4.54) of the Nationals against Junior Guerra (6-9, 4.09) of the Brewers.
Washington ace Max Scherzer was originally slated to pitch Sunday but will go Monday against the Cardinals. By then it may not matter much.
NOTES: One of the top relievers for Milwaukee is all-star Josh Hader, a product of Old Mill High in Millersville, Maryland. Another all-star reliever for the Brewers is Jeffrey Jeffress, who is from South Boston, Virginia and pitched the ninth ... Nationals starting catcher Matt Wieters was ejected in the sixth for arguing balls and strikes ... To take the place of Madson on the 25-man roster the Nationals called up veteran lefty reliever Sammy Solis from Triple-A Syracuse. “It is a fresh start,” said Madson, on his way out of Nationals Park ... It was the first start for Kratz at Nationals Park since 2016, when he caught all 18 innings for the Pirates in a game.