The Washington Nationals will have to wait a day before starting a crucial stretch of their season. And Bryce Harper will have to wait for his latest chance to face his old team.
The Nationals' series opener with the Philadelphia Phillies was postponed due to rain Monday, and the teams will now play a split doubleheader Wednesday to make up for it. The first game will begin at 1:05 p.m. and the second at 7:05. Nationals starter Patrick Corbin will face Jake Arrieta on Tuesday, as they were both scheduled to pitch the postponed game, and then Washington faces a conundrum after that.
Since the Nationals will play seven games in six days - including a now crunched-together four-game set with the Phillies - they will need a spot starter to pitch one of them. Erick Fedde will be skipped Tuesday to make room for Corbin, and likely bump to later in the week. The Nationals' most logical option appears to recall a starter for the first game Wednesday - likely either Kyle McGowin, Austin Voth or Joe Ross from the Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies - and Max Scherzer would pitch the second game that night. Fedde could then slide in Thursday, and the Nationals would push Stephen Strasburg back a day to face the Atlanta Braves.
Then the rotation falls back into place with Aníbal Sánchez on Saturday and Corbin going on regular rest to finish the series with the Braves. Washington is 33-38, and 9 games behind the Braves in the National League East, and this stretch provides a chance to make a push back up the standings. They had three of their four premier arms lined up to face the Phillies, in Corbin, Scherzer and Strasburg. Now they may be more evenly spread across both series, which might not be so bad, considering how well the Braves are hitting in recent weeks.
A rain delay was apparent right away Monday, as the tarp covered the field an hour before first pitch. It was briefly peeled off, about 40 minutes before the scheduled start time, but approaching storms forced it right back on. That's where it remained for the next three hours, covering the infield while a light crowd waited in their seats, then undercover on the concourse, then made a damp walk to the Metro or their cars.
There was about an hour period in which there was no rain at all, causing many to wonder why the game couldn't at least begin. Corbin even walked out to the bullpen and considered throwing warm-up pitches at 8:45 p.m. But the radar indicated bad weather all night, and so the game was finally called just before 10 p.m. This is the Nationals' first rain out of the season. Based on history, and maybe drooping morale by night's end, it likely won't be the last.