That, of course, was outlandish. And it was June 18. Too late for that. But the day’s strangeness forced all involved in Monday’s truncated doubleheader — there was an entire postponed game to play after the suspended opener — to tackle existential questions on the meaning of time, box scores and roster protocol. It was all head-scratching, and things got weirder not long after play began at 5:05 p.m. in the bottom of the sixth inning when Juan Soto added breaking the space-time continuum to his remarkable young major league career during Washington’s 5-3 victory.
On May 15, the day the Nationals and Yankees played the game’s first 5½ innings, Soto went 3 for 4 against the Bowie Baysox for Class AA Harrisburg. He didn’t make his major league debut for another five days. On Monday, entering the game as a pinch hitter with a runner on base, Soto blasted a fastball to the back of the upper deck in right field. It was the 19-year-old outfielder’s sixth career home run — or his first, depending on one’s views on time and space — in 24 major league games, and it gave the Nationals a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they snapped a three-game losing streak.
If not for Soto’s time-defying performance, the Nationals would have been left with another anemic offensive day after they fell, 4-2, in the nightcap, a postponed meeting from May 16. Matt Reynolds drove in both of Washington’s runs, on a groundout and a sacrifice fly, while the Nationals (38-32) finished 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. They left nine runners on base. They put two runners on base with fewer than two outs in three innings and emerged empty-handed each time, including in the ninth when Trea Turner’s line drive off Aroldis Chapman was caught at the warning track to end the game. It was the sixth time they have been held under three runs in June — and the second time in a week against the Yankees (47-22).
“A sign of a good team is never quitting, and we never quit,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “At the end of the day, we faced one of the best closers in the game and we had him on the ropes.”
But a knockout didn’t come. In other words, besides its unusual 6:45 p.m. start, the second game was standard recent fare for Washington. The first game wasn’t.
To start, players on the clubs’ active rosters Monday were eligible to play in the suspended game regardless of whether they weren’t on the roster May 15 unless they were already removed from the game. The bylaws created oddities from the get-go once the game resumed.
Matt Adams, Washington’s starting left fielder May 15, was due up third, but Martinez wasn’t sure whether he would be available to play at all because of a bruised finger. Martinez called Adams’s status a “game-time decision” — jargon reserved for basketball and football coaches, not baseball skippers. But Martinez had choices — and better defensive outfielders — on his bench in Michael A. Taylor, Adam Eaton, Brian Goodwin and Soto.
Eaton, Goodwin and Soto weren’t with the Nationals on May 15. Neither was Daniel Murphy. Goodwin, Eaton and Murphy were rehabilitating injuries while Soto was in the minors. He made his major league debut five days later, which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, remains his official debut in the record books even though he played in the suspended game, though an asterisk has been added.
Meanwhile, Howie Kendrick, the Nationals’ starting second baseman May 15, ruptured his Achilles’ tendon three days later. Andrew Stevenson, Washington’s original starting center fielder, has since been optioned to Class AAA Syracuse. Martinez had choices to make.
As for the pitching, Wander Suero replaced Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez on May 15, tossing a scoreless sixth inning before the game was suspended. The Nationals had the option to keep him in the game to pitch the seventh.
The game resumed with Yankees right-hander Chad Green taking the mound to officially replace Masahiro Tanaka, who logged five innings May 15. Green faced a clean-shaven Bryce Harper, who struck out and finished the day 0 for 5 with a walk to drop his batting average to .212. Anthony Rendon then singled before Soto stepped to the plate and hit his third home run in two games against the Yankees. The ball was estimated to have traveled 433 feet. The naked eye suggested it went a few dozen feet farther.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘Hey, you’re killing the Yankees,’ ” Soto said. “Everybody knows the Yankees, likes the Yankees. That feels pretty good.”
Suero stayed in the game and secured an out before surrendering a double to Gary Sanchez, which brought Martinez out to replace him with Sammy Solis. Didi Gregorius then lined out to left fielder Soto, who doubled Sanchez off at second base to end the inning. From there, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, who began his usual warmup routine an hour before the game started, each tossed a scoreless inning to seal a win 34 days in the making.
“That was weird,” Doolittle said.
The loss took 3 hours 26 minutes. Pitching against New York’s potent offense for the second time in five days, Erick Fedde allowed three runs across 5⅓ innings. It was a quality outing given the circumstances for a hurler making his sixth career major league appearance before the bullpen contributed 3⅔ innings of one-run ball. But the Nationals’ silent bats rendered those pitching efforts insufficient. Sonny Gray held Washington to two runs in five-plus innings before the Yankees’ dominant bullpen slammed the door on the Nationals, concluding a bizarre day in frustration.