The Washington Nationals finally have the lineup they envisioned before the season began.
The Nationals on Monday saw the 2021 debuts of three position players who had been sidelined during the team’s COVID-19 outbreak.
First baseman Josh Bell, infielder Josh Harrison and outfielder Kyle Schwarber were reinstated from the injured list and paid immediate dividends, helping the Nationals snap a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 win against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will face fellow right-hander Jack Flaherty (1-0, 5.23) on Tuesday in the second contest of the three-game set in St. Louis. The pair faced off in Game 3 of the 2019 National League Championship Series, which Strasburg and the Nationals won en route to a four-game sweep of the set.
After being shut out in three of their four previous games, the Nationals busted out for 12 hits on Monday. Schwarber was 2-for-5 with an RBI double, Bell had a single, walked twice and scored twice, and Harrison went 1-for-4.
“It’s awesome. We missed those guys,” third baseman Starlin Castro said. “It makes a difference when they’re in there. I didn’t really know (they were returning). I just checked it out (Monday) morning and saw those guys were playing, and there was a smile on my face. ‘Cause those guys are going to help us.”
Closer Brad Hand, who was reinstated over the weekend, picked up his first save.
Starting pitcher Jon Lester is the only player connected to the outbreak who has yet to return. He’ll begin working out at the team’s alternative training site on Tuesday.
Yadier Molina homered for the Cardinals, who have lost three straight.
Matt Carpenter, who entered the game 0-for-12 on the season, beat the shift with a bunt single in the third inning for his first hit.
“I’m glad to get one on the board,” Carpenter said. “You know, sometimes, that first one is the hardest one.”
Flaherty threw 101 pitches in his last start, allowing one hit over six scoreless innings for a victory against the Miami Marlins. He struck out six and worked around four walks.
He allowed the first three Marlins to reach base, but catcher Molina picked a runner off and then guided Flaherty along.
“Yadi got me through that first inning. He got me through the whole game,” Flaherty said. “When things started to get iffy there at certain points, he got me through it.”
Flaherty has only faced Washington once in the regular season, allowing one run on three hits over five innings of a no-decision.
Strasburg was limited to five innings in 2020 before a right wrist injury and eventual carpal tunnel surgery ended his season. He made his 2021 debut on Wednesday against the Braves, permitting one hit and striking out eight over six shutout innings.
“It was awesome to see,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He looked great. His velo was up a tick, so I think good things to come here soon. But he was throwing strikes, he was pounding the strike zone. He looked really, really good.”
Strasburg owns a 3-2 record with a 2.50 ERA in eight career starts versus the Cardinals. Nolan Arenado is 5-for-18 (.278) with two homers versus Strasburg, while Molina is 3-for-11 (.273), Paul Goldschmidt is 6-for-23 (.261) and Carpenter is 4-for-18 (.222).
Also on Monday, the Nationals designated veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy for assignment. He went 5-for-14 with two RBIs in five games.
–Field Level Media