The Nationals, plain and simple, are running on fumes at this point of the season. There are still 16 games to go after tonight’s 4-2 loss to the Phillies, but it’s going to take every ounce of strength Washington has left in itself to make it to the finish line in one piece.
The Nats lost another player tonight when Wil Nieves strained his left hamstring running out a third-inning grounder. “I think when I got to first, I tried to lunge a little bit for the base, and I felt something there,” he said. “And I was walking back, I felt a little bit of pulling, so I just came out.”
The injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but Nieves will need at least three or four days to recover. And since Jesus Flores is already done for the year with a torn labrum, Josh Bard is the lone standing catcher on the roster. There are no viable options at the minor league level, either. So GM Mike Rizzo opened up his little black book during tonight’s game and tried to find himself another catcher.
By night’s end, he had his man: The Nats acquired 37-year-old Jamie Burke from the Mariners for cash considerations. Burke has 184 games of big league experience and 12 seasons at Class AAA under his belt. He’s described by both Rizzo and Jim Riggleman (who had him in Seattle last year) as the consummate “catch and throw” guy. Which means: Don’t expect much offense. But the Nats needed another guy who can catch nine innings and call a good game, so Burke will be on a plane first thing in the morning and join the team in New York in time for tomorrow night’s game against the Mets.
“At this time of year, they’re hard to come by,” Rizzo said of catchers. “We didn’t have any in-house candidates, so I went through my roster of guys and names, and his popped up as a guy we thought we could get.”
As for tonight’s game, it boiled down to the fact that Cole Hamels was really, really good (eight innings of one-run, five-hit, 10-strikeout ball) while Ross Detwiler was merely good (five innings of one-run, four-hit, six-strikeout ball). Detwiler only threw 89 pitches and easily could have gone another inning, but the Nats are being really conservative with the rookie left-hander and weren’t going to push it tonight. He’ll get one more start (probably next week against the Dodgers) and then be shut down for the winter.
Know this, though: Detwiler was impressive tonight, maybe moreso than in any of his previous starts this year. He commanded a fastball that regularly hit 93-94 mph. And he balanced it with an effective changeup that had the Phillies off-kilter.
A few people afterward brought up the Detwiler-Hamels comparison, and it is a legitimate one. Both are young, tall, lanky lefties who can throw with some velocity and have good changeups (Hamels’ is one of the best in the league). Detwiler obviously has a long way to go to reach Hamels’ status, but it’s not ridiculous to think he could get there.
“He believes in his stuff,” Riggleman said. “He’s not going to let numbers dictate to him that he doesn’t belong here, or anything like that. He walks with an air of confidence around that says: ‘I can’t wait til I pitch. When’s my next day?’”
“There’s not a lot of young lefties that have a swing-and-miss fastball,” Bard said. “I think as he gets comfortable with his mechanics, he’s going to throw the ball even harder. … I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
That’s it from Philly. I’m heading home in the morning. Ben will have the weekend series at Citi Field, and then we’ll both be back at Nationals Park on Tuesday for the start of the final homestand of the season.