Sunday’s Orioles-Nationals game suspended, to resume Friday in Baltimore after tarp problems cause lengthy delay

WASHINGTON — A pop-up storm on an otherwise pleasant Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park caught the hosts completely off-guard — and that doesn’t even account for the mess the grounds crew made as they couldn’t unroll a tangled tarp onto the infield.

The first deluge was the Orioles’ five-run fifth inning, which, just like their eighth-inning outburst in a 5-3 victory the night before, came out of nowhere.


The second came as the Nationals tried to mount a rally in the sixth inning. A rain storm hit Washington and the grounds crew took over 15 minutes — the duration of the storm — to get the tarp unrolled, leaving the infield soaked.

According to MLB rules, because it was a mechanical issue with the tarp, the game was suspended and will be resumed Friday at Camden Yards at 5:05 p.m. with one out in the sixth inning and the Orioles leading 5-2. The regularly scheduled Friday game will begin 45 minutes after the suspended game is completed. Baltimore is looking to complete a three-game sweep over the defending World Series champions.


“The field is unplayable,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “There was a rule in there where … if there’s a mechanical failure with the tarp, then the game is suspended if they can’t get the field ready to play. So, that’s what happened.”

Hyde said he wasn’t aware of MLB Rule 7.02(a), which he said was recently added to suspend games in which a mechanical issue with a roof or, in this case, a tarp, made the field unplayable. He said “everyone involved” was part of the decision to declare the field unplayable, and acknowledged that there were some soft spots.

The Orioles manager took frequent trips out to the field to examine the conditions once the rain stopped. The infield was initially a muddy mess, with workers shoveling mud into John Deere tractors to bring it off the field. As they spread the drying agent around an hour into the delay, the impact seemed quick.

But on Hyde’s last trip around the field, as it became clear that the game wouldn’t resume and the Nationals’ clubhouse staff was emptying their bullpen and dugout of equipment, a groundskeeper walked around the edge of the outfield grass and showed Hyde the muddy spots that remained.

Through it all, Orioles coaches and players milled about on the dirt in front of the dugout. Pat Valaika, who was due up with two on and one out when the rain came, stood waiting on the dugout steps for an at-bat that wouldn’t come.

“Our guys were ready to play,” Hyde said. “Just unfortunate that things happened the way they happened. Sometimes, you’ve got to deal with some adversity and life throws your curveballs. We’ll finish this game off next weekend.”

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said: “For me, obviously, it’s part of this 2020 season. It really is. There’s going to be days that you don’t know what to expect. This is part of it.”

Storm before the storm

In the early going, the Orioles had only a bunt single to lead off the game by Hanser Alberto and an infield single in the second inning from Dwight Smith Jr. The prospect of getting to the soft underbelly of the Nationals bullpen early seemed faint as Stephen Strasburg, making his season debut after being sidelined by a nerve problem in his pitching hand, carried a shutout into the fifth.

But a hard lineout to open the fifth inning by Smith portended what was to come: the Orioles hit the ball all over the field and chased Strasburg from the game.

Austin Hays and Chance Sisco singled, and the bases were loaded on a four-pitch walk to Valaika. Third catcher Bryan Holaday, making his first start of the season in place of an injured Pedro Severino (wrist), singled to open the scoring.

Alberto doubled just fair down the third-base line to score two more, and Anthony Santander punctuated the inning and Strasburg’s day with a two-run single of his own.

The Orioles’ second five-run inning in as many days proved to be plenty of cushion, even as Shawn Armstrong allowed a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth.


“I just thought that we really battled well,” Hyde said. “Strasburg was good the first four. We got to him in the fifth.”

Even so, Hyde said the game wasn’t a forgone conclusion just because of the score at the time of the suspension.

“It’s disappointing that we had the lead and felt pretty good about our bullpen situation for the last half of the game,” Hyde said. “It’s disappointing that we couldn’t finish it today, but hopefully we can regroup, enjoy our off-day tomorrow, go play well in Philadelphia and play them again next weekend.”

Wojo works out of jams

Starting on short rest as the Orioles tried to keep their rotation intact without John Means, who is in his native Kansas City with his family attending to the loss of his father, Alan, to pancreatic cancer, Asher Wojciechowski kept the Nationals scoreless into the fourth inning despite traffic in every inning except the first.

He left the bases loaded on a fly ball to the warning track by Michael A. Taylor in the second inning, erased a leadoff single by Trea Turner with a double play in a quick third, and had two on and two outs in the fourth when he passed that situation on to Travis Lakins Sr., who ended the inning without issue two pitches later.

“I thought it was a real gutsy performance by our starter, by Wojo, escaping some trouble early and going to pitch into the fourth inning,” Hyde said. “He just did a really nice job, and then Lakins picking him up in that fourth getting [Yan] Gomes to fly out. A nice piece of pitching there as well.”

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