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Nats prospects 'learn and grow' on mound

Crowe drops MLB debut in Game 2 of doubleheader
@jessicacamerato
August 23, 2020

WASHINGTON -- After veteran Max Scherzer started in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader against the Marlins, a 5-4 Washington win, the Nationals got a glimpse into their future with prospects on the mound for the evening contest. “These guys are here for a reason,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said following

WASHINGTON -- After veteran Max Scherzer started in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader against the Marlins, a 5-4 Washington win, the Nationals got a glimpse into their future with prospects on the mound for the evening contest.

“These guys are here for a reason,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said following the Nats’ 5-3 loss. “I’ve seen some good things out of them, all of them.”

Box score

Right-hander Wil Crowe, the club’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made his Major League debut. His contract was selected earlier in the day and he was added as the 29th man on the roster for the game that originally had been scheduled for July 31 in Miami. He was matched up with -- appropriately enough -- the debut of Miami’s top prospect, starting right-hander Sixto Sánchez.

“It’s just surreal,” Crowe said. “It was like a whirlwind of emotions from telling my wife and my family, just going through it all with being able to tell them my dreams came true. … I didn’t sleep much, but I think I got enough to come out and perform.”

The Nats selected Crowe, 25, in the second round of the 2017 Draft. Last season, he went 7-10 with a 4.70 ERA over 26 combined starts in Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Fresno. Crowe had been working out at the Nationals’ alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., where he had earned praise from Martinez throughout the summer.

On Saturday night, Crowe threw 64 pitches (34 strikes) in 3 2/3 innings. He allowed four runs on six hits, including a Statcast-projected 438-foot homer by Corey Dickerson to right-center field, while walking two and striking out two. He mixed up his pitches with a fastball (33 percent), slider (27 percent), sinker (25 percent), changeup (11 percent) and curveball (5 percent). His fastball maxed at 92.5 mph.

“That’s my job, to throw strikes and give us a chance to win,” Crowe said. “Early, I felt like I didn’t do the greatest of jobs, but I was able to make some good pitches late in counts and get guys out. But once I settled in, I feel like in the third and the fourth, I only really think I made one bad pitch in the zone and the guy hit it out. It’s the big leagues; it’s what they’re paid to do. I felt all in all, it was a decent outing, and I’m ready for the next one.”

Crowe was relieved in the fourth by lefty Seth Romero, Washington's No. 11 prospect who made his big league debut on Aug. 13. Romero, 24, struck out one batter and gave up two hits in one-third of an inning, allowing two inherited runners to score on 17 pitches. Dakota Bacus warmed up in the bullpen, in keeping with the trend of calling on prospects in the game.

Bacus made his fifth appearance of the season on Saturday since appearing in his first Major League game on Aug. 9 at age 29. He struggled with gripping his slider because of sweat on his hand, according to Martinez. Bacus got in a one-out, bases-loaded jam and allowed the first run of his career in his two-thirds of an inning before Wander Suero closed out the final 1 1/3 innings.

The combination of Crowe, Romero and Bacusover over 4 2/3 frames exemplifies the significance of having young talent at the alternate training site available to step in on the Major League level. Both the starting rotation and bullpen has been hit by injuries, and the Nats have a pool of players hungry for their first opportunity to play in the pros -- and to earn their keep.

“We all like them, and they’re doing well,” Martinez said of the first-year pitchers. “They’re throwing strikes. They’re battling up there. We really like what we see. This year, you’re going to see a lot of teams giving younger players opportunities because of injuries, because of illness. For me, it’s kind of fun to watch these guys come up and learn and grow, because these guys are going to be with us for a while.”

The Nationals had to do some extra maneuvering of their relievers after they used a combination of Scherzer, Kyle Finnegan, Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson hours earlier in Game 1. There is a quick turnaround to keep arms ready to go with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.