Home Musical play Nationals lose series to Padres on Juan Soto’s return to Washington

Nationals lose series to Padres on Juan Soto’s return to Washington

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Manager Dave Martinez turned to Keibert Ruiz with a seventh-inning out to boost an offense that hadn’t had much energy.

At this point in the game, the Washington Nationals were scoreless and had only four hits. They had left two runners on base, but there was room there for Ruiz to pass with another pair. Ruiz fell behind in the 0-2 count, then tipped on a low curveball and hit a ground ball to Padres second baseman Brandon Drury.

Nationals Park fans moaned as the ball went into his glove and then was quickly returned to shortstop Jake Cronenworth who fired a strike at former Nationals first baseman Josh Bell to put end to the frame.

It was the Nationals’ 110th worst league double play; they sank into another in the eighth inning in a 6-0 loss to the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

Since early July, Washington has won only one series.

“Some days you have to tip your hat to their pitchers,” Martinez said. “[Starter Blake] Snell was good. I thought Ruiz’s pinch shot, he had a really good at-bat, he just hit the second baseman hard. We couldn’t do anything offensively.

How a future without Juan Soto became a reality for the Nats

The Nationals (38-78) have been moving guys in and out of the roster since the Aug. 2 trade deadline, trying to find any mix of players who can produce. The only player to hit consistently is Joey Meneses, the 30-year-old who has hit five homers in nine games since his major league debut.

He added two singles Sunday against Snell to give him 14 hits, the most by a National in 10 career games. But Snell allowed only one more hit in six innings and struck out 10 batters. The Nationals swung on 55 of Snell’s 103 pitches and sniffed out 24 of them. On his fastball alone, the Nationals missed 15 of 34 they hacked.

“Our plan was to get him to throw punches, and he did,” Martinez said. “But his fastball pitch was really good and his break ball was good.”

It wasn’t until the Padres (65-52) turned to their bullpen that the Nationals started something, but even then they squandered their opportunities. The Nationals finished in the seventh with Ruiz’s double play and had another opportunity in the eighth when the first two Nationals hit base left fielder Alex Call, who was called up before Sunday’s game.

But Call did what Ruiz did before; he got into a double play and the groans from the fans came back.

Which prospect is joining the Nationals? The Nationals, sources say, are calling CJ Abrams, the shortstop acquired in the trade from Soto. Abrams hit .232 in 46 games with the Padres this season, but was originally picked for class AAA Rochester after joining the organization from Washington.

Abrams will replace Luis García, who did not play for the second day in a row after sustaining a groin injury on Friday. García said after Sunday’s game that he felt better but still had pain when running.

What was Call’s program in August? Hectic. The 27-year-old outfielder was claimed by the Nationals off waivers the previous Sunday. Fast forward to this Sunday and Martinez beat him to the lead; he finished 0 for 4. Outfielder Josh Palacios was sent back to Rochester.

Since the start of August, Call was tapped into the Cleveland Guardians’ Class AAA affiliate on August 1 and then slated for assignment on August 5. The Nationals claimed him on August 7, he drove from Columbus to Rochester the next day, then played five games for Rochester. Then he caught a 6:40 a.m. flight from Rochester to DC in time for Sunday’s noon game.

“There are a lot of things that can always change in this game, but my routine remains the same,” Call said. “And if it’s the same, then I know I’m putting myself in the best position to be ready for whatever comes my way.”

How did Paolo Espino behave against the Padres? Espino allowed four runs in 5⅔ innings, with Martinez stretching it to a season-high 109 pitches. His pitch count increased due to 23 Padres fouls and two walks that each resulted in a run.

He walked Cronenworth in the second inning, and Wil Myers scored a two-out single to get him in. The next inning, Espino walked Padres leadoff batter Jurickson Profar before Juan Soto and Manny Machado singled out; Profar scored on Machado’s single to give the Padres a 2-0 lead. The Padres scored another point on Drury’s choice of a defenseman.

Espino’s fourth and final earned run wasn’t exactly his fault. He seemed to come out of the sixth inning unscathed when he brought up Trent Grisham in center field. But Victor Robles lost the ball in the sun and the ball fell right next to him. Myers chose on the next at-bat to tag Grisham, ending Espino’s outing.

How did Soto and Bell do on the show? Soto finished 4 for 12 with a double and two RBIs. Bell went 0 for 13 with three walks.