Washington starter Patrick Corbin threw his first pitch just minutes after the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds decided not to play Wednesday night. That came after the NBA postponed three postseason games, which was spurred by the Milwaukee Bucks not taking the court to face the Orlando Magic. The Bucks did so, in part, to point the spotlight on racial injustice following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Multiple MLB teams followed suit.
“We were getting ready for the game as normal. I just now started reading what was happening, what was going on,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said after the loss. His voice cracked with emotion before he continued: “I will say this, though: I’m proud of the NBA. I’m proud of all the people who stand for justice. You know the way I feel about all this stuff.
“It’s horrible. We need change. We’re people. We got to come up with some kind of conclusion because this is bad. I’m going to talk to the players. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Martinez then paused, removed his cap and added, “I tip my hat off to all those guys.”
Brewers reliever Brent Suter told reporters the team didn’t play “to focus on our community hurting and the issues that are bigger than baseball.” The Seattle Mariners soon decided by a team vote not to play the San Diego Padres. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants didn’t play, either.
Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward chose to sit out a game that unfolded as scheduled in Detroit. Cardinals players Dexter Fowler and Jack Flaherty did the same in St. Louis. Colorado Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp joined them, writing on Instagram: “Tonight I stand with my fellow professional athletes in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer. I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel.”
“There are a lot of things that need to change,” said Nationals infielder Howie Kendrick, who declined to speak specifically on the postponed games before gathering more knowledge. “Because growing up where I grew up, I experienced the same things that are still happening today, and I know that there are a lot of things wrong with our country.
“I do think a lot of those things won’t change overnight, but a lot of people are bringing awareness to these situations.”
When asked about the postponements, right fielder Adam Eaton said: “I have a difficult time finding words for what’s going on. . . . Everyone handles it a different way, I guess.” Corbin said he didn’t know much about the decisions around baseball, adding: “There are a lot of things that are going on in this world that are strange, and obviously we have to do a better job trying to make things better. I don’t have an answer for that.”
Washington started its day by optioning third baseman Carter Kieboom to the team’s alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va. The 22-year-old has slumped through this season, posting a .200 average, 20 strikeouts and no extra-base hits in 64 plate appearances. The club has hoped he will grow into a regular third baseman, a hole created once Anthony Rendon left in free agency last winter. But for the immediate future, the Nationals will fill that spot with veterans Asdrúbal Cabrera and Josh Harrison.
Corbin held a slim 2-1 lead Wednesday after Juan Soto homered in the second, Rhys Hoskins hit a solo homer for the Phillies in the third and Cabrera scored on a Kendrick single in the fourth. The Nationals then lost it with a pair of defensive miscues in the seventh: Soto made a diving attempt at a liner that resulted in Didi Gregorius’s leadoff triple, and Eaton and Victor Robles dropped a routine flyball after they collided just in front of the warning track. Neither defensive miscue was ruled an error, but both helped permanently flip the scoreboard.
The Nationals had life once Kendrick led off the ninth with a double. Michael A. Taylor jogged out of the dugout to pinch-run. But Taylor was stranded on third by back-to-back strikeouts for Eric Thames and Robles to end the game. And as the Nationals fell to a third straight loss, the Brewers, Reds, Padres, Mariners, Dodgers and Giants planned doubleheaders to make up the postponed games. Thirty teams will roll on after part of the sport stood alongside athletes in the NBA, WNBA and MLS. But Martinez repeated that the Nationals will have a discussion before doing so.
“At the end of the day, we still have a long ways to go,” Kendrick said. “We’ve come a long way, but being a Black man in America, you never want to see any injustice toward someone of your color. Having kids, I want my kids to grow up in a better world.”
“If any one of our guys are going to not play, I truly believe that we’re all going to stick together. I really do,” Martinez added. “We’re going to talk about it, and we’ll see what transpires from our conversation. Once again, it’s a travesty that these things keep happening and it’s got to go away. We got to have change.”
When the game finished in Washington and players scrolled through their phones to see the news from Milwaukee, San Diego and San Francisco, this message flashed onto the giant big screen in right field at Nationals Park: JUSTICE . . . EQUALITY . . . NOW.” The Nationals and Phillies are scheduled to finish their series at 6:37 p.m. Thursday.
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