Erick Fedde handed the baseball to manager Dave Martinez, who then took his left hand and gently tapped his starting pitcher on the backside Monday night at Nationals Park.
The Nationals right-hander then walked to first-base dugout, a scene of frenzied activity in an unique day of baseball between teams predicted to meet this October in the World Series, according to Sports Illustrated.
The New York Yankees defeated the Nationals 4-2 Monday in a nine-inning rescheduled game that was originally rained out May 16. New York pitchers fanned 15 Washington batters, including three in the eighth by Dellin Betances and two in the ninth by 100 mile-per-hour closer Aroldis Chapman after a leadoff double by Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy. Nationals shortstop Trea Turner made the last out with two runners on base on a long fly to right.
Earlier in the evening, rookie phenom Juan Soto hit his third homer in six days against the Yankees as Washington won 5-3 in a game that was picked up in the last of the sixth after the game was suspended May 15 by rain.
“What can you say? Nineteen and obviously doing really well. He has hurt us in a couple of game,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who played for the Nationals in 2008.
It was the sixth homer in the first 78 big league at-bats for Soto, who crushed a 3-1 pitch about 430 feet off Yankees reliever Chad Green.
Did Nationals manager Dave Martinez envision such a long shot?
“No, but I thought he had a good chance to hit the ball hard. That was hard,” Martinez said.
In the 34 days since the Yankees last played in the shadows of the capital much has transpired – both good and bad – for the Nationals.
Back in May, slugger Bryce Harper was hitting a nearly-respectable .231. Now his average has sunk to .212. Not even shaving his beard before Monday’s action could break Harper out of his funk.
Back on May 15, Soto was in the midst of a short eight-game stay with Double-A Harrisburg. Now he is the most feared batter in the Nationals, lineup with six homers in 24 games.
Rookie pitcher Wander Suero, who was not with the Nationals to start the season, pitched in the suspended game May 15, started the seventh inning of that contest Monday and then came on to pitch in the regular game later Monday.
And Fedde, in mid-May, was in between starts with Triple-A Syracuse of the International League. He started May 12 and had a rough game but was not involved in the decision. Five days later he pitched better, allowing only one run, but again was denied a win.
That was the case as well Monday, as he left trailing 3-2 in the top of the sixth against the Yankees in the nightcap. He allowed three runs in 5.1 innings after throwing five innings at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
Nationals first baseman Mark Reynolds, playing for teammate Ryan Zimmerman, had an RBI groundout in the second inning in the nightcap Monday to tie the game at 1-1.
Reynolds had a sacrifice fly in the fourth to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead, but the Yankees got two in the fifth on a homer by Aaron Hicks to take a 3-2 lead against Fedde. Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton had an RBI double in the seventh for a 4-2 lead while Reynolds fanned in his last two at-bats.
After Monday’s one-day Nationals Park stopover, the Yankees open a series back in the Bronx on Tuesday against Seattle.
There was plenty happening off the field as well Monday for the Nationals, now 38-32 and losing ground on first-place Atlanta.
Perhaps it was a coincidence that Fedde, a fill-in starter, was struggling in the fifth inning when the club announced they had made a trade for another pitcher.
Kelvin Herrera, who had 14 saves this season for the Kansas City Royals as a closer, was traded to the Nationals for three minor leaguers.
Herrera, 28, has an ERA of 1.05 in 27 games for the Royals this season with 22 strikeouts and just two walks. He was an All-Star pitcher in 2015 and 2016 and part of the Royals’ World Series title team in 2015.
The veteran pitcher should aid a bullpen in which Sean Doolittle has been the closer all season.
Brandon Kintzler, who normally pitches the seventh inning, is on the disabled list for the Nationals while Ryan Madson usually pitches the eighth inning when Washington is leading in a close game. He gave up two homers Sunday in Toronto, and a day later, the Nationals made the trade.