PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals knew going into Sunday’s game they would be making multiple calls to the ‘pen. But their plans for a bullpen day against the Phillies quickly turned into a long afternoon filled with visits to the mound in a 12-6 loss that saw seven pitching appearances and 154 pitches thrown from the Nats.
Shorthanded, without Stephen Strasburg and Erick Fedde, the Nationals turned to right-hander Austin Voth to make the start. Manager Dave Martinez was eyeing Voth to throw three innings, but his afternoon came to a halt in the top of the third after being hit by a pitch in the face from right-hander Vince Velasquez. Voth sustained a broken nose, and he will remain in Philadelphia to have it reset while the team travels south to face the Rays.
“It’s really scary,” said Martinez. “I almost fell over a seat on the bench just to try to get out there because we knew right away, when you get hit in the head, it’s ugly.”
With Victor Robles on first after also being hit by a pitch, and with nobody out, Voth was squaring to bunt when Velasquez threw a 90.5 mph four-seam fastball up and in that Voth wasn't able to avoid after it clipped his helmet. He dropped to one knee and was visibly bleeding, but he was able to walk off under his own power.
"Some things just managed to get away from me, and it sucks,” Velasquez said. “I feel terrible for Voth in that situation. I would hate to be in his shoes. No matter the damages or anything, it can be traumatizing on both ends. But it happened. It’s over with. I hope he recovers."
Voth exited the game after throwing two scoreless, hitless frames with a pair of strikeouts. Martinez described him as being a “big bright spot” in the Nationals’ bullpen this season, filling multiple roles based on their pitching needs. While discussing Voth’s injury after the game, Martinez spoke on the broader issue of hit batters.
“I hate to bring it up, but you’ll see more of that if we keep messing around with the stuff about the balls,” Martinez said. “I understand that they’re trying to clean some stuff up. But the balls -- it’s hot, it’s slippery, it’s sweaty. I know Velasquez didn’t throw in there intentionally. ... But I’m afraid that if we don’t come up with something unified for everybody, that you’ll see a lot more of that. And that’s a scary feeling because these guys throw 95, 96, 97, some guys throw 100 [mph]."
Right-hander Wander Suero continued Voth’s momentum at first, keeping the Phillies off the board in the third before the NL East rival opened up the offensive floodgates in the following inning and set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Philadelphia scored seven runs in the fourth as it took a combined effort from Sam Clay, Kyle Finnegan and Paolo Espino to record three outs. Defensively, second baseman Jordy Mercer misplayed a popup and third baseman Starlin Castro threw to second instead of home on a fielder’s choice that allowed the Phillies’ go-ahead run. The Nats faced 12 batters that inning, and the Phils did their damage without recording an extra-base hit.
“It got away from us with the walks, the error, the fielder’s choice with Castro,” Martinez said. “That inning just got out of hand.”
Espino remained in the game for the fifth, but he allowed a home run to Brad Miller, just as Tanner Rainey did against J.T. Realmuto in the sixth. Before Kyle McGowin could complete his scoreless two innings to close out the game, the netting behind home plate collapsed in the top of the eighth, causing a 20-minute delay.
“It was a crazy day,” Martinez said. “My mood really swung when I saw Voth get hit. From that moment on, I wasn’t happy. I know [Velasquez] didn’t hit him on purpose, but it stinks. You start worrying about Voth, but we’ve got to keep playing the game -- and then all of a sudden we start giving up all these runs and then the net falls on our head. That was like the topper right there.”