Less than 10 hours after the Nationals defeated the Brewers in an exhausting 16-inning marathon that is the team’s longest game in history, the first bus for Miller Park left the team hotel Wednesday morning. Nearly half the team filled that bus. An hour later at 11 a.m., the second bus left with the rest of the team.
At around 10:30 a.m. Central time, Aaron Barrett, Tanner Roark and Nate McLouth sat around a table in the sleepy clubhouse eating breakfast. Others sat on the plush leather couches eating and relaxing. New arrival Taylor Hill showed up from Class AAA Syracuse at 10:43 a.m., his bag slung over his shoulder. Little by little, more players trickled in. Some even played cards before the game, hoping for a sweep.
Sixteen innings over 5 hours 22 minutes wore on everyone, but few showed it. Bench coach Randy Knorr walked through the clubhouse with his usually happy demeanor on display. Defensive coordination and advance coach Mark Weidemaier already had his fill of caffeine, something players will likely do before the game as well. Manager Matt Williams kept to his usual morning pre-game routine despite only a few hours of sleep.
“I feel great,” Williams said as he sat down to talk with reporters in the dugout before the game. “Got a nice little three-miler in with the fellas.” But where did the energy come from? “I don’t know. I’ll go to sleep on the bus on the way to Chicago after the game.”
The veteran players felt the wear of the game the most. Williams had been wanting to give Jayson Werth a day off and the day after a 16-inning marathon was a perfect opportunity. Werth rested Wednesday along with Danny Espinosa and Jose Lobaton, who caught all 16 innings Tuesday and even had a ball lodged in his catcher’s mask during the game.
Ryan Zimmerman, the hero of the 16th inning with his two-run home run and diving catch, didn’t want out of the lineup because he has missed enough time already this season. Adam LaRoche, the second-oldest regular position player, and Ian Desmond, the iron-horse shortstop, both told Williams they felt good enough to play.
We’re “a little beat up,” LaRoche said. “I’m sure you’ll have some guys a little more banged up than others. Age really plays in now after a game like from standing around. It’s not necessarily the running but the movement stuff from standing in spikes in the dirt.”
Thankfully for the Nationals, the first game in Chicago on Thursday is a night game and players can rest. But Saturday will be a challenge: a day-night doubleheader to close out a seven-game road trip. Oh, and the Nationals played an extra-inning game against the Braves last week, too But over the next few days, Williams said he would look at giving days off for the remaining players.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Everybody is good [Wednesday] and we’ll see what we can do.”
The bullpen, however, was in the most ragged shape. Williams said he wants to avoid using the back of the bullpen — Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano — on Wednesday. Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen could pitch an inning each, and Hill can provide several innings if Stephen Strasburg were to falter.
“Hopefully it’s a lot of innings by Stras,” Williams said.
And of course there is Ross Detwiler, who delivered four crucial innings and 46 pitches in Tuesday’s game, his longest outing of the season. As he walked through the dugout and into the clubhouse before the game, the left-handed reliever even surprised himself with how he felt after playing catch.
“Actually I do feel good somehow,” he said. “Hasn’t set in yet.”