Four runs scored in the decisive fifth. Each was charged to Sánchez’s final line of six runs on seven hits in 4 ⅓ innings. The offense did very little against Ryan Yarbrough, who entered after John Curtiss, the Rays’ opener, faced the first six batters. Yarbrough pitched 5 ⅔ innings, allowed one run and quieted the Nationals, who dropped to 17-29.
A few hours before first pitch, Washington placed Tanner Rainey on the injured list and recalled Aaron Barrett from their alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va. These moves are part of the daily routine this season, with the Nationals now missing key parts of their lineup, rotation and more than a few relievers.
When Rainey hit the IL with a flexor strain in his right elbow, he joined Stephen Strasburg (carpal tunnel neuritis), Starlin Castro (broken right wrist), Sean Doolittle (strained right oblique), Roenis Elías (flexor strain in his left elbow), Sam Freeman (same as Elías) — deep breath — Dakota Bacus (flexor strain in his right elbow), Seth Romero (broken right hand), Howie Kendrick (strained left hamstring) and Javy Guerra (same as Kendrick).
Strasburg, Castro, Doolittle, Freeman and Elías are all done for the season. Rainey could be, too, though the Nationals could activate him Sept. 21 at the earliest. But with the righty’s emergence this summer, and the new title of “future closer,” it’s likely they are very cautious with his recovery. He felt forearm tightness last week and was shut down for three days. Then Washington paused his throwing to curb any long-term issues.
“We got guys that are playing right now that have these little nagging little things going on and we have to watch them and got to be careful,” Manager Dave Maritnez said. “They’re going out there and doing the best they can. But I don’t want anybody to end up hurt and having to spend the rest of the winter rehabbing instead of just relaxing and getting ready for spring training next year.”
That’s how Braymer wound up jogging into a fifth-inning jam. But before he did, Sánchez turned in another rough start. His ERA had spiked to 7.38 by the end of it. He worked a scoreless first, leaning on his four-seam fastball and sinker, before the Rays put two across in the second. Nate Lowe lofted a solo homer off a low curve. Later in the nning, Sánchez yielded a two-out single, balked Kevin Kiermaier over to second, and let Kiermaier come in on Kevan Smith’s single.
As he trudged through the outing, the offense struggled with the Rays. Curtiss retired five of the six hitters he faced. Yarbrough, a 28-year-old lefty, cruised through Washington aside from two singles for Carter Kieboom and Juan Soto’s double in the fifth. Soto later scored thanks to back-to-back groundouts. The bats otherwise wilted before leaving the bases loaded in the ninth.
The fifth was when Sánchez went from shaky to shook. Austin Meadows poked a leadoff single before swiping second. It was the Rays’ third steal of the game, and opponents improved to 10 for 10 when running against a battery of Sánchez and Kurt Suzuki. And with Meadows in scoring position, and Sánchez wavering, the righty walked Yoshi Tsutsugo as he was called for his second balk.
In both cases, the umpires felt Sánchez didn’t pause enough after coming set. But when “Balk!” was shouted in the fifth, Sánchez rushed forward to argue. His conversation continued with home-plate ump Dan Iassogna once he was pulled for Braymer at 98 pitches. The second balk was later amended to just a walk, since a rule-book technicality says one event overrides the other. Sánchez had already loaded the bases and let Manuel Margot bump the Rays lead to 4-0 with an RBI single.
That left Braymer with a mess on his hands. That could have been Wander Suero’s spot, but he’s been promoted to high-leverage duty in Rainey and Doolittle’s absence. It could have been Guerra’s, but he’s stuck on the IL. Braymer walked the first batter he faced, bringing in a run, before sandwiching Kermaier’s RBI single with two strikeouts. From there, he covered one more out, Barrett took the next five in his season debut, then Ryne Harper shepherded the Nationals to a lopsided finish.