They were mistaken.
Instead, what started as a seemingly innocuous announcement about a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers being postponed turned into hours of confusion and frustration. Players were summoned to Nationals Park anyway, unsure if the information was authentic and if they actually were going to try to play despite foul weather and sloppy conditions.
The teams will play a single-admission doubleheader Thursday. Chien-Ming Wang will start the first game at 1:05 p.m. for the Nationals, and Ross Detwiler will pitch the second, which will start about 30 minutes after the first game is completed.
At one point before the game officially was scrapped, John Lannan walked into the clubhouse after a light bullpen session and asked Detwiler, “Can we leave?”
Detwiler said he didn’t know.
That about summed up the feeling throughout the nearly deserted clubhouse, which became only slightly more crowded as reliever Sean Burnett, second baseman Danny Espinosa and catcher Wilson Ramos trickled in wearing street clothes. Even reliever Ryan Mattheus showed up, and he’s on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder.
Players who arrived late, some walking in at approximately 5:30 p.m., asked those who were already there if there was definitive word regarding the status of the game, but still no information was available. Then at roughly 5:40, General Manager Mike Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson were walking up the hallway to the clubhouse when Rizzo told two reporters that the game was postponed.
Rizzo then entered the clubhouse to tell the players they could go home, to which there were some sighs and incredulous looks.
“I have no comment,” Burnett said while fiddling with his smartphone. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
The episode began at 1:40, when the Dodgers tweeted that the game scheduled for 7:05 had been called, presumably because of heavy rain and an unplayable field. The Nationals, however, did not confirm that was the case until the club issued an e-mail stamped at 5:52 announcing a traditional doubleheader would take place Thursday .
The reason for the delay in making an official announcement apparently had to do with a new rule implemented following last season requiring Major League Baseball to approve postponements. Previously, a game could be postponed if officials from both clubs and the head umpire agreed to do so.
In this case, the MLB commissioner’s office wanted to wait and see if the game could be played, according to Johnson.
“It’s all new to me,” said Johnson, who indicated he had spoken with Rizzo and Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly about agreeing to postpone the game early in the day. “It was always both managers. Now it’s more centralized.
“The field was going to be unsafe. We couldn’t use the cages. There was all kinds of things going on, and plus most of the roads around here were closed, so it was a kind of a no-brainer as far the Nationals were concerned. We didn’t want to be on an unsafe field and couldn’t get here to begin with.”
Several hours after the Dodgers issued their tweet, roughly a dozen Nationals players, including Strasburg, remained in the clubhouse. Meantime, Wang, who was scheduled to start on Wednesday but will do so now on Thursday afternoon, threw lightly in the bullpen, and Lannan followed.
Back in the clubhouse, pitcher Yunesky Maya sat in front of his locker watching a movie on his tablet computer. Shortstop Ian Desmond sat in front of his stall talking to teammates, while others watched baseball games on multiple flat-screen televisions.
Throughout the afternoon, the visiting clubhouse remained closed to the media. Security personnel outside the doors to the clubhouse said no Dodgers were at the stadium except for Mattingly and his assistants, although it appeared one Los Angeles pitcher was throwing lightly in foul territory by the left field line.
Dodgers officials had canceled team buses to Nationals Park assuming the game was officially off, Johnson said. The club, though, eventually was scrambling later in the day to gather players to ride to the stadium when word began to spread the game may be a go.
Even if they had tried to get to the stadium, the journey may have been harrowing. Heavy rain closed major arteries in and surrounding the District, including parts of Interstate 395 and the Ninth Street Tunnel. Roads leading to the stadium that weren’t flooded had lengthy backups, including the exit to South Capitol Street right after the Third Street Tunnel.
“Their players were hither and yon, as were everybody,” Johnson said.