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May 14, 2017

Odubel Herrera out of lineup, reportedly met with Mackanin Sunday morning

WASHINGTON – Perhaps Pete Mackanin’s frustration was boiling under the surface of his postgame comments on Saturday night, when he watched his bullpen give a good honest effort before Bryce Harper hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

He talked about the ongoing struggles of his relief corps, but pretty much only because he was asked about their ongoing struggles. But Mackanin also bemoaned the efforts of his offense, in its inability to tack on runs late and capitalize on rallies.

“We had opportunities to score but they kept elevating fastballs on us and we couldn’t get on top of it,” Mackanin said.

One of those opportunities came a half inning before Harper’s game-ending blast, when Freddy Galvis led off with a walk, Cesar Hernandez followed two batters later with a walk of his own at the conclusion of a nine-pitch plate appearance.

And then? Odubel Herrera hacked at the first pitch he saw, following Hernandez’s walk, a fastball up at his eyes. Herrera’s at-bat, which came with two on and one out in a tie game, ended just as his previous three, with a strikeout.

“I felt pretty good about that (inning),” Mackanin said afterward. “We just couldn’t come up with the big hit.”

Herrera finished the night 0-for-5 with the hat trick of strikeouts. He’s hitting .214 with 12 strikeouts and one walk in his last nine games.

He’s out of the lineup for Game 1 of today’s split doubleheader at Nationals Park, which isn’t unusual for a doubleheader … except for the fact that, according to a couple of reports, including one from the Delaware County Daily Times, he had a meeting with Mackanin on Sunday morning.

Mackanin did not divulge the specifics of the meeting when pressed, but that’s hardly unusual either with such things. Herrera is expected to play in the nightcap of the doubleheader, at 7:05 p.m. against Max Scherzer.

Still, it’s natural to speculate if Herrera sitting for the first game is related to his play on Saturday night.

Herrera is a free-swinger, but his at-bats on Saturday night were particularly difficult to watch, namely the aforementioned one that helped kill a potential game-winning rally in the ninth. Perhaps as with any hitter in a funk, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to give Herrera a break.

But then there was his first at-bat of the night, way back in the first inning. After Cesar Hernandez legged out an infield single off Tanner Roark to begin Saturday night’s game, Herrera bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.

Herrera wasn’t necessarily running at full speed on the play, however, something several folks on Twitter took umbrage with immediately. 

After the game, Mackanin was asked about the play and how Herrera may have been “grimacing” afterward with a possible injury.

“He said his leg was tight,” Mackanin said. “It’s been tight, something in his leg. He’s healthy. He’s not complaining about it. He just mentioned it.”

Mackanin could also be choosing to rest the left-handed hitting Herrera against Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez. The entire lineup for today’s matinee is populated by right-handed hitters or switch hitters.

Herrera has a .691 career OPS against left-handers … 100 points lower than his .791 career OPS against right-handers. Then again, Herrera is slashing .344/.400/.594 with two home runs and two doubles in 32 at-bats against left-handers this season and has had modest success against Gonzalez in his career (3-for-11, two walks, two strikeouts).

Perhaps we’ll never know the real reason for Herrera’s absence from Sunday afternoon’s lineup. But a morning meeting with his manager is certainly notable.

It's fair to note that Mackanin has used this tactic with Herrera before, both for disciplinary reasons and for reasons related to his aforementioned sometimes-undisciplined approach at the plate. 

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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