Voth impresses in starting audition for Nats

Righty pitches 6 sharp innings while stepping in for injured Scherzer

July 17th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- The Nationals found their rotation in a bit of disarray at the beginning of this series, thrown off after Max Scherzer’s back injury lingered and forced him to miss a start. That made the next two nights, including Tuesday’s 8-1 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards, serve as pseudo auditions for and , who are vying for the fifth spot in the Nats’ rotation.

Voth stated his case with a solid outing Tuesday, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning to complete six innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts.

“This is another opportunity,” Voth said. “I know the last two outings that I’ve had haven’t gone my way. But I felt like I was fighting back in this start to put my name back in fifth starter contention.”

Voth had grabbed hold of the job leading up to the All-Star break with an excellent start against Atlanta, when his velocity spiked and he had excellent command. But his grasp loosened after he scuffled in consecutive outings.

In this game, Voth looked much closer to form, limiting Baltimore to four hits and one walk while hitting a pair of batters, but keeping the Orioles off the basepaths for most of the night. After struggling with his command in the first inning, he rebounded to give the Nats the innings they needed, keeping them in the game until their offense exploded.

“He's been up here, and he's pitched well,” manager Dave Martinez said. “And I like what I'm seeing. ... If he struggles for an inning or a few pitches, he has that poise, and he gets right back into that rhythm again. I kind of like that.”

Voth’s stiffest competition in the rotation is Fedde, who will be called up to start Wednesday night. Fedde had the job earlier this season after Jeremy Hellickson went to the injured list, where he remains with a right shoulder strain.

Fedde started the season with the most promise, and he was highest on the depth chart. He had made the transition into a reliever before the Nats needed him in the rotation, and he performed well in his first few outings before command issues began to reappear. Fedde has appeared in 11 games (six starts) with a 3.79 ERA, but he has walked (19) nearly as many as he has struck out (22).

There are still lingering questions about the Nationals’ starting rotation this week, most of which will be answered when the Nats know Scherzer’s status. Voth’s performance should give the Nats some confidence in him going forward, although Fedde could jump ahead on the depth chart pending his start Wednesday.

But the rest of the week should provide some clarity as to whether Voth or Fedde will round out what has been one of the best rotations in baseball lately.

“Both of those guys are part of our future right now,” Martinez said prior to the game. “So we hope that they both pitch well.”