“I wasn’t upset. I was just trying to figure out what he was saying,” Smith said. “I touched third, and he was saying something. I touched home, and he was still saying something. I was like, ‘What are you saying?’ That’s all.”
And did he get any clarity?
“I think the camera … it was a couple explicits,” Smith said. “So whatever y’all pick up on that, that’s what it was.”
Anyway, Robert strikes out a lot, making two strikeouts in three innings seem like not too big a feat for Adon. But Robert has also been one best power hitters in the majors this season, the sort of player who provides a tough-yet-fair measuring stick for a 25-year-old starter. In their first meeting, Adon and the outfielder battled for eight pitches before Adon beat him with a low-and-in change-up. In their second matchup, Adon needed just three pitches for a strikeout, ending the at-bat with a high fastball that hummed past Robert’s bat at 96 mph.
That capped the top of the third, leaving Adon with a little bounce in his step on the way back to the dugout. He had earned it. But in the fifth, after Adon yielded a single and a walk with two down, Robert rocked a curveball — a pitch below the zone — into the visiting bullpen for a three-run homer.
Adon threw 13 pitches to Robert — one curve, five four-seam fastballs, three change-ups, three sliders and one sinker. Overall, the righty threw 43 four-seamers, 17 change-ups, 11 sinkers, eight sliders and eight curves against the White Sox (58-93), who have the third-worst record in the American League. In the small sample of 10 appearances in 2023, advanced metrics consider Adon’s fastball his strongest pitch. His curve, on the other hand, grades as decidedly poor.
Before the series opener, Manager Dave Martinez lamented how Adon had shelved his fastball for long stretches in recent starts. But true to form, Martinez pinpointed the two-out walk to Andrew Benintendi as the biggest error of Adon’s fifth. Adon ultimately yielded five runs on nine hits, raising his ERA to 6.28.
“[Catcher] Keibert [Ruiz] came up, and we talked about and we had a game plan, and I actually executed,” Adon said in Spanish through a team interpreter, indicating he felt good about throwing the breaking ball out of the zone. “He just had a better game plan.”
Adon didn’t act alone Monday. The offense couldn’t touch Clevinger, who threw a complete game and allowed just six hits to the Nationals (66-85). Clevinger struck out seven.
Adon started the sixth by allowing three straight hits. Rookie Jose A. Ferrer entered and stumbled.
It started well for Ferrer, who induced a double play against the first batter he faced. But after Elvis Andrus extended Chicago’s rally with a single, things went sideways. With Tim Anderson at the plate, Ferrer thought he had Andrus picked off first to escape the inning. Ferrer, in fact, was so sure that he dropped his head and began walking off the field.
The problem? Once Smith chased Andrus toward second, Ferrer needed to cover first behind Smith, just in case the rundown pushed Andrus back to where he started. And that’s exactly what happened, allowing Andrus to retreat safely before Smith could reach him with a lunging tag. Anderson followed with a single, then Benintendi hit a single that brought in Andrus.
Buried in a six-run hole, Martinez hooked Ferrer and called in long man Cory Abbott. The only remaining question, then, was whether Clevinger could go all the way.
“He just mixed his pitches up,” Martinez said. “We made it tough on ourselves, though, ’cause we did a whole lot of chasing. That’s the bottom line. We didn’t swing at too many strikes. We were all over the map.”
Note: Tanner Rainey and Cade Cavalli, both recovering from Tommy John surgery, were at Nationals Park, visiting teammates and the club’s medical and coaching staffs. Rainey, who underwent the procedure last summer, is much further along than Cavalli. The 30-year-old reliever has made 13 rehab appearances and is expected to throw a bullpen session in D.C. on Tuesday. Whether he will pitch for the Nationals this season is still to be determined.
Cavalli, on the other hand, had surgery in the spring and is aiming to return by the start of camp in February. But on Monday, Martinez offered an encouraging development for the 25-year-old, who remains one of the team’s top prospects: Cavalli could play catch at Nationals Park this week.