The rumored trade between Tampa Bay and Washington is a reality, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays have traded catcher Jose Lobaton and two unnamed minor leaguers to the Nationals for pitching prospect Nate Karns.
Lobaton became expendable following the Rays’ trade for Ryan Hanigan earlier this offseason and he’ll join the Nationals as a backup for Wilson Ramos. Washington has spent all winter acquiring potential backup catchers, so they clearly felt having a reliable option behind Ramos on the depth chart was very important. Lobaton is a 29-year-old career .228 hitter with a .654 OPS.
Karns made his MLB debut last season at age 25 after throwing 133 innings with a 3.26 ERA and impressive 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A. For his career he has 362 strikeouts in 304 innings as a minor leaguer and the Rays are always looking to add young pitching to keep things churning despite low payrolls. Baseball America recently named Karns as the ninth-best prospect in the Nationals’ farm system.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.
Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.
Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.
Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.