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Sunday, April 24, 2022

OPINION:

Washington Nationals third baseman Lucius Fox took a few steps toward the dugout after Joan Adon’s second pitch and threw up.

Maybe he had a clue what was to come — a 15-hit, 12-3 beatdown by the San Francisco Giants, sweeping the Nationals for the first time in Washington since 2008.


Funny, this 2022 season has had a 2008 vibe ever since I went to spring training and didn’t know many of the players and the clubhouse had extra lockers brought in.

That year the Nationals opened their new ballpark and went on to lose 102 games. Like one high-ranking baseball official once told me, “Nobody opens a ballpark and loses 100 games.”

It was enough to make you sick.

Even in 2008, nobody threw up on the field during a game. 

That Nationals team got off to a 5-13 start in their first 18 games. This Nationals team is off to a 6-12 start after 18 games.

Let us never forget, though, that the Nationals got off to a 19-31 start in 2019 and went on to win the World Series. They should never stop waving that flag of hope. It’s too rare, too precious, not to break it out whenever needed.

It’s needed. It may seem futile, given the cast of characters on this Nationals roster that will have to dig out of the hole they find themselves in before April is even over.

But hey, they earned that flag of hope.

“We still have some guys we hope to get back here soon, especially our starting pitching,” manager Dave Martinez said before his team got manhandled Sunday before a crowd of 26,003 at Nationals Park. “We’ve got two guys who are working to come back.”

Those “two guys” would be starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, both recovering from surgery and were left in Florida when the team came north to presumably get ready to pitch at some point this season.

But we have only seen Strasburg — the 2019 World Series Most Valuable Player — pitch in seven games and 26 innings in the past two seasons. 

And Ross? 

We’ve only seen glimpses of success from him over the six seasons he has been with Washington, a 26-28 record with a 4.26 earned run average.

The cavalry looks a little queasy to me.

“Look, this team has a lot of young guys,” Martinez said. “We have two starting pitchers learning a lot. I really believe they are doing well, and they are going to get better. But when we get veteran guys like Strasburg and Joe Ross back, things will get interesting.”

Oh, Sunday was interesting. 

It’s not every day a player throws up on the field during a game. 

Pitcher Dylan Bundy did it last year with the Angels. Another pitcher, Tigers reliever Beau Burrows, also lost it last year during an appearance. Detroit sent him down to the minor after that. 

The year before, Brewers pitcher Adrian Houser threw up for the second time in his career. It happens, but it’s typically not part of the play-by-play.

These were all pitchers who lost their “composure” on the field. An infielder, Fox was playing third in place of Maikel Franco, who was moved to first because Josh Bell was still nursing a sore hamstring.

Before the game, Martinez spoke glowingly about Fox. “He’s very precise,” he said. “He tries to be perfect. He pays attention to details. He’s always looking into the dugout to see where he should go.”

Fox appeared to be heading for the dugout but didn’t make it. 

He threw up a few feet away from the mound, and they didn’t stop the game to clean it up. 

Adon, after two pitches, continued with Fox’s remnants close by until the inning was over.

He (Adon) was a little bit weirded out by it,” Martinez said. “I thought he handled himself well.”

If you mean he didn’t get sick as well, then, yes, he handled it well. If you mean he pitched well, the five runs on six hits and one walk in four innings would be a different diagnosis.

Martinez is right about some key injuries, like Bell and reliever Sean Doolittle with a sprained elbow. 

But when assembled and healthy, no one is going to confuse this team with the powerhouse of talent that staged their 2019 historic comeback.

They have little margin for error, and the burdens they are carrying now — using 12 different relievers in these three losses to the Giants — will likely upset many stomachs in the onths to come.

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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