COVID outbreak hits Nationals; 3-game series vs. Mets off

WASHINGTON (AP) — The entire season-opening three-game series between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets was called off on Friday because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the 2019 World Series champions, who had four players test positive for COVID-19.

The Nationals announced the postponement of games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Nationals Park, saying the decision was “due to continued follow-up testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization.”

The opening day game in Washington on Thursday night already had been put off, just hours before it was supposed to begin with Max Scherzer pitching for the Nationals against Jacob deGrom of the Mets in a matchup between the recipients of a combined five Cy Young Awards.

Four Nationals players have tested positive since Monday for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, general manager Mike Rizzo said. He added that there are five other players and one staff member who are under quarantine after contact tracing determined those half-dozen people potentially could have been exposed, too.

Rizzo has not identified any of the players involved — and said he will not.

Major League Baseball and the players’ union issued a testing update Friday, saying there were four new positive tests — three players and one staff member — from the 14,354 tests administered over the past week across all of the sport, a 0.03% rate.

One of Washington’s players had a fever, according to Rizzo, who said the others are not showing symptoms.

Washington’s next scheduled game would be at home on Monday against the Atlanta Braves, and Rizzo said he expects Scherzer to start.

“We are planning to play Monday,” Rizzo said. “That’s our plan. This is a day-by-day thing.”

Rizzo said the team essentially had mandated that everyone in the Nationals organization should quarantine — not just those known to be affected.

“We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and people need to still take this seriously. Unfortunately, it hit us, and we’ve got to take care of our own now,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Thursday. “All I can say is: Be safe, continue to wear your masks like they ask and know that this still can happen to anyone. It’s tough for us right now, but we’re going to get through it.”

Friday originally was set up as a day off for the Nationals and Mets to allow for a makeup contest if there were an issue with Game 1, such as a rainout.

The Mets worked out at Nationals Park on Thursday, with pitchers throwing live to hitters.

“To be honest, it wasn’t a surprise. We’ve been in situations like this since last year,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said Thursday. “The health is the No. 1 thing still in the world. We’re taking care of ourselves. Everyone’s taking their mask everywhere. We’re doing everything we need to do.”

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