WASHINGTON -- His travel plans to get to Washington were far from smooth, as right-hander Erick Fedde endured a weather-related delay, a plane that ran out of fuel and a flight crew change all to arrive at Nationals Park ahead of his first Major League start of the year on
WASHINGTON -- His travel plans to get to Washington were far from smooth, as right-hander Erick Fedde endured a weather-related delay, a plane that ran out of fuel and a flight crew change all to arrive at Nationals Park ahead of his first Major League start of the year on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's not a big deal," Fedde said after the Nationals' 3-1 loss to the Padres. "Any way to get here was worth it."
Worth it indeed, because Fedde turned in an impressive 2018 debut, filling in as a spot starter for this series finale against the Padres. He gave up three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts. The Nationals could not muster much support on offense besides a solo home run from Matt Adams in the seventh, but they were encouraged by the best start of Fedde's young career.
His line would have been even better if not for a slight fade in his final inning. Fedde held San Diego to one run over the first five frames before getting into a bit of trouble in the sixth. And even the last two runs didn't necessarily have to score, as Christian Villanueva's two-run double benefited from a tough sun field for Bryce Harper in right field.
This was an encouraging start for the Nationals and Fedde, their No.4 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline, after he struggled during his first stint in the Majors a year ago. There were no signs of the command issues or the diminished fastball velocity that hindered him during his three starts with Washington a year ago -- eventually leading to him being shut down in September. On Wednesday afternoon, his fastball velocity remained steady in the mid 90s, with a sharp slider that generated seven swings and misses.
"It's huge," Fedde said. "After this outing, I feel like I can definitely compete at this level, which is nice because last year I didn't have too many great outings. So this was big just for overall confidence."
The Nationals' rotation has been their strength this season, one stabilized by the addition of right-hander Jeremy Hellickson as the team's fifth starter. So, Fedde is almost certainly ticketed for a trip back to the Minors following this game, but the performance could inspire more confidence in the young righty if a start is needed going forward.
"I thought he threw great," Bryce Harper said. "We've got a pretty packed starting staff, but we know that we have somebody like that that can come up and do that anytime he can, it's huge."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Fedde could've finished his outing by yielding even less damage by nearly escaping a sixth-inning jam unscathed. With two runners on, Harper tried to track down a fly ball in right field hit by Christian Villanueva, and even though his glove made contact with the ball, he could not complete the catch. Originally scored an error, the play wound up being scored a two-run double, the difference in the game.
It was a difficult potential play for Harper and would have been a four-star catch, as rated by Statcast™, on a play that had a 49 percent catch probability. That's before taking the sun into account, which made for an adventurous day out in right field.
"I think definitely a tough play," Harper said. "Maybe a little bit quicker to it, I could have gotten to it, but nothing I can do."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The infield was not affected by mother nature, as evidenced by two dazzling plays by Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo. Turner made a fabulous play on a chopper from Padres leadoff hitter Travis Jankowski, charging up the middle, scooping the ball and quickly executing a jump-throw to get the out at first.
Difo also made a leaping play, jumping to snare a broken-bat liner from Franchy Cordero in the fourth inning.
After an off-day Thursday, the Nationals will travel to Miami for the first time this season for the start of a three-game road trip at Marlins Park on Friday. Max Scherzer will take the mound with the benefit of an extra day of rest. Since the start of last season, he is 10-1 with a 2.39 ERA with five days of rest in between starts. Jose Urena will take the mound for the Marlins, with first pitch at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.