Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez knows that some of his players start slowly, so he’s not panicking over the fact that the Nats’ offense is struggling to score runs, string together hits, and support their starters.
After all, in the first-time manager’s 16-year career as a player in the majors, his own April numbers were —
“You don’t want to look up my April [stats], they were awful,” Martinez joked with reporters before the start of the second of four with the Colorado Rockies in the nation’s capital last night.
Sorry, Davey. We looked them up.
The Nats’ now-53-year-old manager put up a respectable .250/.321/.349 career line in April, actually, but Martinez was definitely a player who warmed up as the season went along with a .272/.345/.375 line in the month of May, a .284/.350/.431 line in June, a .276/.331/.378 line in July, a .287/.347/.401 line in August, and a .280/.349/.383 line in September/October.
So, no, in spite of the Nationals’ early-season struggles, Martinez isn’t panicking and shaking things up after 13-14 games.
“You hear it all the time, it’s a marathon, you know,” he said. “Some guys are generally slow starters, I know that. These guys have been around a long time, they know what they need to do, so I don’t panic. These guys are going to hit, I know they’re going to hit, so for us, like I said the other day, it’s about making sure you take your walks, take what they give you, and keep playing the complete game.
“Just because you don’t hit don’t mean you can’t help us by [playing] defense, by running the bases, do something else, a walk or whatever. But do something to help us win every day.”
While they’re struggling to get going at the plate, Martinez said, it’s important to do the rest of it right.
“We constantly talk about the quick 27 outs. ‘Let’s get a quick 27 outs,’ that’s what we preach all the time and if you can do that you have a good change to win and compete every day. Don’t give the team an extra out or two outs, because that’s when you tend to put yourself in a hole, and they know that, we talk about that every day. These little things that I know — like I said, we’re going to start hitting, but what I would like is for them to come out every day, compete and run the bases hard and play good defense.”
His advice for hitters who are off to a slow start, and maybe pressing, trying to get things going as the Nationals, who started the season 4-0, but had lost seven of the last nine as they took the field against the Rockies on Friday?
“You tend to just try to get to that next pitch, and that’s kind of what we tell all the hitters,” Martinez shared.
“‘Hey, just get to the next pitch, try to get to the next pitch,’” he tells his team, “and before you know it, the next thing you know you’re getting one hit, you’re getting two hits, you’re walking a little bit more, you’re getting on base.
“As a whole, we’re walking a lot, which is good, I mean, it’s really good to see, and when I look back at some of our at bats, we’re hitting the ball pretty good.”
Rockies’ right-hander Chad Bettis held the Nationals’ hitters to one run on three hits in the series opener, and the Colorado bullpen (Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee), combined for two scoreless in a 5-1 win on Thursday.
Friday night’s starter, left-hander Kyle Freeland, put up pretty even right/left splits over his first season-plus in the majors, after debuting in 2017, with a .282/.360/.447 line vs righties and a .287/.337/.453 line vs left-handers through his first 35 games (30 starts) in his career.
Martinez went right-hand heavy in the lineup vs Freeland, with Bryce Harper the only left-handed bat to start for the Nationals.
“For me, looking at — watching [Freeland] on video and seeing some of the numbers,” Martinez said, “I like our righties against him.
“He’s pretty good. He mixes his pitches up really well. A really good athlete. So I definitely like a right-handed lineup against him, and we’ll see where we’re at.”
Freeland tossed four scoreless on 79 pitches, but ran into trouble in the Nationals’ half of the fifth, with three straight batters reaching base with one out, setting Bryce Harper up with a bases-loaded opportunity he cashed in with a game-tying sac fly, 1-1. That was the only run the Nats got out of that opportunity though.
The Nationals had just four hits, three walks, and the one run through five, and they were 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position and six left on base to that point.
One inning after the Nats rallied to tie it, however, and a half-inning later the Rockies were back on top after an error by Trea Turner, a single by Gerardo Parra, which put runners on the corners, and a sac fly by Carlos Gonzalez made it a 2-1 game in Colorado’s favor.
That’s how it ended after the Rockies’ relievers (Shaw, Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Wade Davis) held the Nationals hitless from the fifth on.
Martinez was asked how he balanced patience and finding some urgency as the Nationals try to turn things around, having now lost 8 of 10.
“I say it every day,” he told reporters, “27 outs. For right now, I really believe you give good teams 28-29 outs, bad things are going to happen. As far as the hitting, we’ve got really good hitters, and I know that, and we’re going to hit, and if our pitching continues to give us a chance to win, we’re going to start winning these games, I know we are, so I’m not worried about it. I want to reiterate the fact that we need to just play clean defense, run the balls out hard, I appreciate [Bryce Harper], he ran hard today, battled, sac fly, he did all the good things today, so, but we’re going to continue to play and we’re going to do well, I promise you we’re going to do really well.”