Blocking plate call on review helps Nats edge past Padres 4-3

WASHINGTON (AP) — San Diego Padres manager Bob Melvin was confident that his catcher, Austin Nola, was not guilty of blocking home plate. So sure the skipper was immediately ejected after Nola was called out for the transgression during a replay, allowing the Washington Nationals to get the nod.

Nola was not concerned that the apparent output – it was so in real time – would be altered.

“I had no concerns,” Nola said.

So answer the questions and compose the debate about what’s stopping a runner from going home — Melvin said it was the subject of a recent Major League Baseball memo — after the Padres chasing wildcards and new slugger Juan Soto repeatedly failed to dropped into the clutch against his former club and lost to the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Saturday night.

“If it’s a takedown, we’re still in the game,” Melvin said, arms crossed, afterwards.

“I thought it was a good game. My understanding is if you ride the plate or give it part of the plate to slide on, it doesn’t block the plate.”

Playing their second game since learning of Fernando Tatis’ steroid suspension, the Padres built a 3-0 advantage thanks to solo homers from Manny Machado and Trent Grisham and a single from Soto, which was traded by Washington on August 2.

But San Diego’s offense stalled: the club finished 2 for 12 with runners in the scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“We had opportunities for sure,” said Nola, who went 1 for 3. “We just have to capitalize on our opportunities.”

Yu Darvish (10-6), loaded with four runs over six innings, gave up the lead on back-to-back deep balls from at-bats by Yadiel Hernandez and Joey Meneses in the sixth. Meneses, a 30-year-old who made his league debut Aug. 2, now has five homers in nine games.

Then, with Luis García in relief after Darvish gave up a single, Victor Robles, who entered the day with just .229, hit a single to the right, where good buddy Soto plays. César Hernández — who had three hits and a stolen base for the night — headed home from second base.

Soto’s pitch hit the plate just like Hernández – and after Nola tagged it with a home foot, the runner was called. Washington manager Dave Martinez challenged and the appeal was successful, meaning the run counted and the Nationals broke the tie at 3.

Martinez said he thought “right away” that Nola was “blocking the plate, for sure.”

Nola’s opinion?

“I just felt like when I caught the ball I backed off just in case I got in front of the lane. That’s all I know I did. It’s just that the recoil turned out to be on the plate,” he said. “I thought I had done everything the way we practiced: stepping back, giving it a lane, not throwing the knee in front .”

Melvin argued with team leader Paul Emmel, even stepping to step on the plate while making his point. It happened hours after Melvin reached out to Tatis for a phone conversation. On Thursday, the All-Star shortstop was banned for 80 games — meaning he’s gone for the remainder of 2022 and the start of 2023 — after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.


Nationals DH Nelson Cruz hit two singles to bring his hit total to 2,000.

“To do it for as long as he has, it’s unbelievable to me,” Martinez said. “He puts himself in a good position to hit every ball.”


After Washington starter Aníbal Sánchez allowed three runs in five innings, Kyle Finnegan (4-2) threw a scoreless seventh and Carl Edwards Jr. worked the ninth for his second save of the season.


Padres: Melvin said he was “encouraged” that C Jorge Alfaro (sore right knee) could catch up on Sunday.

Nationals: SS Luis García was out of the starting lineup with a strained left groin. … LHP Patrick Corbin is due to start on Tuesday. … RHP Erick Fedde (15-day IL; right shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to make a rehab start at Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday.


On Sunday, San Diego sends LHP Blake Snell (4-6, 3.96 ERA) to the mound against Washington RHP Paolo Espino (0-4, 4.04).


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