The All-Star break will provide a respite for several injured Washington Nationals as the NL East leaders attempt to get healthy for a run at a third playoff appearance in four seasons.
Washington hopes having the last couple of days off will help it get on track offensively in the opener of a three-game Battle of the Beltways series against Baltimore Orioles on Friday night at Camden Yards.
The Nationals (46-38) were already without Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman when Stephen Strasburg joined them on the disabled list with an oblique strain suffered Saturday against San Francisco.
Denard Span then confirmed after Wednesday’s series finale against Cincinnati was postponed that he would not be playing against the Orioles (43-42) and instead would see a specialist to deal with his lingering back pain.
"I’m definitely not helping the team by doing what I’ve been doing for the last three, four weeks," Span told MLB’s official website. "Missing games here and there, (then) playing four games. Definitely, I’ve been putting the team in a bad spot."
The Nationals haven’t been very good offensively lately, falling 3-2 on Monday and 5-0 on Tuesday to the Reds. They’ve scored three or fewer runs six times in a 3-4 stretch.
Baltimore had its own troubles at the plate during a three-game sweep at the hands of Minnesota, which concluded with Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. Manny Machado hit his third homer in five games and Chris Davis made it back-to-back shots leading off the eighth, but the Orioles have scored 19 runs over their last seven – nine coming during their only victory in that span.
”We’re just not giving our pitchers much margin for error,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Chris Tillman turned in another rough start in an inconsistent season his last time out, though he’s won four straight decisions.
Tillman (6-7, 5.57 ERA) gave up six runs in 1 1-3 innings of a 13-9 victory over Toronto on June 21, then bounced back to pitch seven innings to beat Cleveland 8-0 on June 28.
The right-hander struggled again Saturday, though, giving up two runs and 10 hits while throwing 103 pitches in 4 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
”It was a grind,” Tillman said. ”They spoiled a lot of good pitches. I felt for the most part I had command of most of my stuff.”
Tillman has posted a 4.86 ERA in three career starts against the Nationals, failing to get a decision. He gave up two runs in seven innings of an 8-2, 11-inning win the last time he faced them July 7, 2014.
He’ll oppose Gio Gonzalez, who has lost his last four starts against the Orioles with a 4.97 ERA. Steve Pearce, hitting .391 over his last seven, homered off Gonzalez in the Orioles’ 4-3 victory last July 10 and improved to 4 for 9 in their matchups.
Gonzalez (6-4, 4.16) was scheduled to start Wednesday but now looks to snap his skid against Baltimore on six days’ rest. He’s won back-to-back starts, pitching seven scoreless innings of a 9-2 victory over Pittsburgh on June 21 and allowing one run in seven innings of last Friday’s 2-1 win over San Francisco.
Both of those outings came at home, though, and the left-hander is 2-3 with a 5.89 ERA in eight road starts. Washington, loser of three of four on the road, has dropped 14 of 19 at Camden.
Baltimore reinstated outfielder Nolan Reimold from the paternity list Thursday and released Delmon Young.