Nats put 10 on IL before opener, win on walk-off

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The Washington Nationals finally opened their season Tuesday at home against the Atlanta Braves, but did so with a patchwork roster due to COVID-19 issues.

The Nats announced that starting pitchers Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester, catchers Yan Gomes and Alex Avila, first baseman Josh Bell, infielders Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, left fielder Kyle Schwarber and reliever Brad Hand were all placed on the injured list, though none with a specified injury.

A coronavirus outbreak has sidelined 11 players, four of whom tested positive for COVID-19, though the team has not revealed which players tested positive and which are in protocols. Seven others were told to quarantine after contact tracing deemed they potentially were exposed to the illness.

“Obviously they want to be here and they want to be with the team. That’s a struggle for them,” manager Dave Martinez said of the absent players. “But overall, they’re in good shape. They feel good. They can’t wait to be back.”

The Nationals won 6-5 on Juan Soto‘s walk-off home run.

The outbreak forced the team to start its season five days later than it was supposed to. Washington’s season-opening three-game series against the New York Mets was scrapped because of the home team’s outbreak; so was Monday’s series-opener against Atlanta, which will be made up in a doubleheader Wednesday.

With so many players out, the Nationals recalled seven players, including shortstop Carter Kieboom, to the 26-man roster and signed 34-year-old catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a contract as part of a flurry of personnel moves.

Lucroy started for Washington on Tuesday and batted eighth, going 1-for-4 with a two-run double.

In addition to all the roster shuffling, Washington also placed reliever Will Harris on the 10-day IL with right hand inflammation.

“When we get these guys back, we’ll be ready,” Martinez said. “For right now, I feel like we’re going to be able to compete, even with the guys we’ve got.”

Five-thousand fans were permitted Tuesday at Nationals Park, and a crowd of 4,801 was announced.

“Just to have that atmosphere back here at Nationals Park, it was welcome,” said Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who started Tuesday. “I don’t understand why we can’t have more fans here.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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