PHILADELPHIA -- Shortly after Monday night's game had been officially postponed, Erick Fedde strolled out to the outfield in a T-shirt and shorts and began to play catch. Initially scheduled to start Sunday afternoon, rain and unplayable field conditions had pushed Fedde's start back another day, to the first game
PHILADELPHIA -- Shortly after Monday night's game had been officially postponed, Erick Fedde strolled out to the outfield in a T-shirt and shorts and began to play catch. Initially scheduled to start Sunday afternoon, rain and unplayable field conditions had pushed Fedde's start back another day, to the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader vs. the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Fedde did not allow those rainouts to throw him off his game, however, as he responded with the best start of his young career in the Nats' 3-1 victory in Game 1. He struck out a career-high nine batters and held the Phillies to two hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Fedde's performance, combined with Spencer Kieboom's first career home run, helped spur the Nats in the opener of the twin bill.
"It's just -- it's not fun," Fedde said about the constant rainouts. "But it's one of those things that's part of baseball, and I just try to prepare myself every day just like it's a normal start and just kind of figure it out. That's all you can do."
After enduring days of rain delays, postponements and altered plans, the Nationals finally played a game without complications from Mother Nature, even if the crowd was sparse at the start of the game. Despite the difficult weather conditions, Washington has now won three consecutive games, as Sean Doolittle sealed the win with his first save since coming off the disabled list.
The Nats had been imploring Fedde to use his fastball -- a two-seam fastball that acts more like a sinker -- more frequently on the mound, and he has been doing so with strong results in his two starts since returning from a shoulder injury. Fifty-seven of his 100 pitches Tuesday were sinkers, which generated six swings and misses and 10 called strikes. In his last outing, he matched a career high with seven strikeouts in five innings.
"It's funny because a lot of guys tell me that," Fedde said. "[Stephen Strasburg] has been really big on it. He's like, 'Dude, throw your fastball more,' and [Nationals manager Dave Martinez has] been pushing it hard. Today, I definitely think everything played off of it. It just kind of opened up my slider, and really, I think guys were surprised by the cutter."
And as the Nats have struggled to find production from the catching spot all year, Kieboom has moved his way up the depth chart, serving as the primary backup for Matt Wieters. With one out in the fifth, Kieboom swatted an opposite-field solo homer against Nick Pivetta -- and initially appeared to lose a tooth in the process -- to put the Nats on the board.
"It was pretty awesome," Martinez said. "He's been playing well. What I really like about Spencer, he's doing his homework a lot now and calling really good games. And he's learned, he's learned how to play up here."
Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman both added RBI singles in the game to back Fedde's performance, which was the most encouraging sign of the day for the Nats. Washington currently has two vacant spots in its rotation for 2019, and Fedde is starting to make his case to secure one.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fedde ran into trouble in the sixth inning at the end of his brilliant outing, but Martinez wanted to give him the opportunity to work out of it. Fedde gave up a two-out single to Cesar Hernandez before Martinez emerged for a mound visit with Rhys Hoskins on deck as the tying run.
"I asked him, 'What do you got? It's time I treat you like a big boy,'" Martinez recalled after the game.
Fedde said, "Once I gave up that single and he started to walk out, I was … saying some unhappy things. But then he talked to me … I was like, 'Hoskins is mine. I got him'."
Fedde was unsuccessful against Hoskins and lost him to a walk, causing Martinez to turn to the bullpen. Justin Miller faced a pinch-hitting Andrew Knapp, who represented the go-ahead run. Knapp put a charge into the ball to deep right field, but Adam Eaton made the catch to escape the threat.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
As he stepped up to the plate before connecting on his first career-home run, Kieboom appeared to spit part of his tooth out on the ground, but after the game, he clarified that he had actually lost his tooth at breakfast earlier that day.
"Unfortunately it was not my tooth," he said with a laugh. "I know everybody wants it to be my tooth."
Seemingly everyday, Juan Soto finds a new way to impress during this standout rookie season. In the seventh inning, he did so with his glove, leaping into the stands in foul territory in left field to take away an at-bat from Odubel Herrera.
Tanner Roark will take the mound for the Nationals against Jacob Arrieta of the Phillies in Game 2 of the doubleheader with first pitch after the conclusion of Game 1.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.