Dusty Baker informed reporters on Thursday night, after the series finale in Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, that he planned on resting most of his veterans in the series opener in Citi Field.
“Our guys have been busting it,” Baker explained, “and you can see a lot of times when you’re not crisp that you’re a little off mentally, so that’s why I’m going to give all these guys a day off tomorrow, because these guys have been busting it, and that late get-in, which we’re used to but you still don’t like it.”
Before the first of three with the Mets, however, Baker made it clear that he wasn’t just conceding a game by sending some young players and a few bench players out against New York.
“No. 1, I’m not putting them in to paint, I’m putting them in to win,” Baker said.
“And they’re playing today because everybody is tired, but they should be less tired because they haven’t played that much and they’re younger, so give my big boys much-needed rest, because we got in at 3:30-4:00 in the morning, again, which is for about the tenth time this year, and I want to see some good fundamental play.”
“I want to see some timely hitting,” Baker said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, “... some defense and hopefully some things they possibly would’ve learned here.
“Because I urged them to pay attention while they were sitting on the bench on how to play. And most of them were paying attention.
“I haven’t quizzed them, but I look down the bench and I can see they’re attentive and in the game. When I was their age, I learned more in the months I would come up as a September call-up almost than I did when I was playing ball. On how to play, and as importantly how not to play. There’s a lesson in that, too. I want to see hustle. And I want to see some heads-up play.”
Early on it was the veterans in the lineup who came through, with Adam Lind launching a three-run blast in the third that put the Nationals up, 3-1, and Howie Kendrick hitting an RBI double to center field in the fifth, 4-1, but one of the kids, 20-year-old prospect Victor Robles hit a broken-bat triple to the warning track in center field to drive in two more in what ended up a three-run fifth inning.
Edwin Jackson’s location and home run issues continued, however, and it was tied up at 6-6 after five before the Mets added a run off Joe Blanton in the sixth to go up 7-6.
Baker said he stuck with some his players, young and old, in the series opener to test them, and see how they reacted.
The Nationals had their opportunities late in the game, but came up empty against the Mets’ bullpen.
“We had bases loaded, and — then we had the runner on third in the ninth and we’re going to have to see what these guys can do,” Baker explained.
“That’s why we stuck with Edwin for one more hitter and that’s why we didn’t pinch hit for Lindy at the end there because I told guys that they were off and also we’ve got to see what they can do.
“[Lind] is hitting .300 against lefties, he’s doing pretty good, and he got a pitch to hit he just popped it up.”
Baker let Robles bat with two on and two out in the ninth instead of turning to one of his veteran bench bats, when Mets’ skipper Terry Collins turned to right-hander Jeurys Familia with an opportunity to tie things up.
“I didn’t want to hit for him either,” Baker said, “because it’s like okay, you can’t rescue him all the time, let’s see what you’ve got and what you can do, and he’s been looking pretty good so far. That was a tough guy to face, Familia, but you’re going to face tough guys especially if you’ve got a chance to make the roster here, so we have the luxury, you don’t like to lose, but you have the luxury to try to find out what they can do.”