Nationals closer Sean Doolittle stops to sign autographs after it was announced that both games against the Yankees were postponed due to inclement weather. Doolittle now gets five days of rest. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
The Washington Nationals didn’t wait long Wednesday night. An hour before their suspended game with the New York Yankees was due to resume, three hours before the teams’ regularly scheduled game was to start, they flashed a message on the scoreboard to the few hearty souls brave enough to sit in the rain. The games — or the remaining three innings of Tuesday’s game and regularly scheduled Wednesday nine — will be played here June 18 starting at 5:05 p.m.
The Nationals and Yankees are both off Thursday, but both teams had trouble with that date. The Nationals are hosting Ryan Zimmerman’s annual ziMS Foundation Night at the Park on Thursday evening. The Yankees didn’t have hotel rooms here Wednesday night. Because they had plenty of mutual days off and relatively little distance between them, the teams rescheduled. What was one of the more hyped home series on the Nationals’ calendar amounted to six soggy innings Tuesday night — and no change in record for either side.
What will change, however, is the state of the Nationals’ pitching. Max Scherzer was scheduled to start Wednesday night against the Yankees, a matchup to which the two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner looked forward. Now the Nationals will push him back to Friday night’s series opener with the Los Angeles Dodgers. They had originally slotted Tanner Roark for that night on two extra days of rest. He can now push back a day, and Stephen Strasburg can do the same to start Sunday. The Nationals confirmed their pitching plan with record rainfall forecast through Saturday.
In the meantime, the Nationals will have played six innings in four days — little enough action to throw hitters out of whack, and perhaps just enough rest to help their tired relievers reset. Brandon Kintzler, Sammy Solis and Ryan Madson will get at least four days off. Sean Doolittle will get five. Solis is tied for the major league lead in appearances with 23. Kintzler is tied for second with 22. Madson has appeared in 21 of the Nationals’ 42 completed games. All of them are on pace for career highs in appearances and well over 80 each. In 2017, no pitcher appeared in more than 79 games.
The postponements also likely diminish the time missed by Ryan Zimmerman, whom the Nationals placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 10 with what was officially listed as a strained oblique. Zimmerman said he did not expect to need much time, and he will be eligible to return early next week if he needs just the minimum 10 days. Even if he needs more time, he will miss fewer games than he would have.
Manager Dave Martinez gave center fielder Michael A. Taylor the day off Tuesday, coupling it with Monday’s day off to give Taylor two straight days of rest. Now he gets four, and the 27-year-old can use them. He has been dealing with a groin injury for weeks, so much so that Martinez had given him the all-clear to run carefully on sure outs in the infield — something Taylor has no history of doing.
But while allowing the banged-up Nationals to heal, the rainouts could slow Washington’s most substantial momentum of the season. The team entered this series with the Yankees after a 6-1 road trip, winner of 13 of its last 15 games. Trea Turner had recently settled in. Anthony Rendon looked on the verge of catching fire, and he homered in the first part of Tuesday’s game.
But if the break interrupts the Nationals’ roll, they could be helped by the fact that their opponent this weekend — the Dodgers — are in free fall. Once considered favorites for the National League pennant, the Dodgers lost shortstop Corey Seager for the season, have Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list and are working around a diminished version of closer Kenley Jansen. Though they welcomed back third baseman Justin Turner, they entered Wednesday’s games with one fewer win than the last-place San Diego Padres. In mid-April, a standings quirk like that can be laughed away. But a quarter of the way into the season, the Dodgers are reeling.
They, like the Nationals, will have to contend with the threat of rain this weekend. As of late Wednesday, the forecast was for rain into Saturday. But the forecast could change between now and Friday, and for now, the Nationals have nothing to do but wait.