WASHINGTON -- In the past five days, the Nationals had played just 5 1/2 innings, stymied by rainfall in the D.C. area all week long, which suspended one of their games and postponed two others. As manager Dave Martinez ate breakfast in the team cafeteria on Saturday morning, he sensed
WASHINGTON -- In the past five days, the Nationals had played just 5 1/2 innings, stymied by rainfall in the D.C. area all week long, which suspended one of their games and postponed two others. As manager Dave Martinez ate breakfast in the team cafeteria on Saturday morning, he sensed how eager his team was to finally take the field.
However, perhaps the long layoff created some rust for these Nationals, who dropped the first game of Saturday's split doubleheader, 4-1, to the Dodgers at Nationals Park.
"You play so many games before that that you try to do the best you can to stay within your routine every single day," Bryce Harper said. "It's definitely tough coming in after five days off or however many days we had off."
The rain held off to allow the Nationals to complete their first game since Sunday night, but their offense was flummoxed by Dodgers right-hander Thomas Stripling, who struck out a career-high nine batters in six innings of one-run ball.
And the Nats suffered another potential loss when veteran utilityman Howie Kendrick was carted off the field with an injury to his lower right leg in the eighth inning.
Kendrick was sent to receive an MRI after the game, so the Nationals will wait to hear the results about perhaps their most consistent hitter.
Before this layoff, Washington had been one of the hottest teams in the Majors, winners of 13 of its past 15 games. The break gave the bullpen a chance to rest and the starting pitchers an opportunity at an extra breather, but the club was not concerned whether it would break momentum.
"Taking that much time off is never -- I mean it can be good, but early in the season I'd like to keep on a routine," right-hander Tanner Roark said. "But then again, it's Mother Nature, and you can't control that. You got to do what you can."
Roark did more than enough on the mound. He had not pitched since May 10, which allowed the Nationals to extend him to a season-high 117 pitches as he gave up three runs in seven innings with eight strikeouts. Roark was energized by the extra days of rest, but this outing followed a trend from Martinez, who has trusted his starters to extend their pitch counts at times this season.
"I think, one, I like to give them the opportunity to win a ballgame," Martinez said. "And two, I think these guys can do it, I really do. And right now, they're showing me that. He was fresh. The last inning, he was throwing 92-93 [mph], so that's a good indication that he still had a lot left in his tank."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Harper had a new addition to his face when he stepped up to the plate during his first at-bat of the afternoon, donning a pair of clear-framed glasses. Normally, Harper wears contacts while playing, but he had trouble putting them in, so he started the game using a different pair of glasses in the field and at the plate.
They were gone by his second at-bat, however, and even without his glasses or contacts, Harper hammered a game-tying single. More >
Making his first career start, Nationals catcher Spencer Kieboom swatted a single into left field to collect his first Major League hit. He received some applause from the crowd of 26,740 fans at Nationals Park as the ball was tossed back to the home dugout to mark his milestone. Kieboom last appeared in a big league game on Oct. 2, 2016. More >
HE SAID IT
"He's one of the best teammates I've ever played with, such a great guy in the clubhouse, great guy on the field. Shows up every single day, same guy, same mentality. I'm not sure what happened, but I guess we'll see and go from there." -- Harper, on Kendrick's injury
The Nats and Dodgers play Game 2 of this split doubleheader at 8:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. Max Scherzer, pitching for the first time in seven days, will take the mound for the Nationals against left-hander Rich Hill.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.