Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez was blunt in his assessment of the recently-completed 3-7 homestand, which left the defending NL East champs 7-9 so far this season, 6.0 games out in the division heading into this week’s three-game series with the New York Mets in Citi Field.
“It wasn’t good,” Martinez told reporters after a mistake-filled, see-sawing series finale with the Colorado Rockies.
“We should have won some more games, but you know what, the effort is there, guys are starting to swing the bats a little better. Michael A. Taylor had a good day, so we’ve just got to keep pushing. We’re going to win games, I know that, we’ve just got to capitalize in big moments. We haven’t done that. And we’ve got to be able to put teams away early when it counts, not wait till late. I mean we had opportunities to put this team away today early and we couldn’t do it.”
Martinez’s Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead early on a Bryce Harper home run, as they tried for a split of the four-game series with the Rockies, but Charlie Blackmon broke up Stephen Strasburg’s nascent no-hit bid twelve batters in with a solo home run on a 3-2 fastball with two down in the top of the fourth.
With Washington up 3-1 after two runs scored on a bases loaded passed ball and error in the fifth, Strasburg gave up a two-out, two-run double by Blackmon and an RBI single by Carlos Gonzalez that put Colorado up 4-3 in the sixth, and after the Nationals tied it in the bottom of the inning, and responded to a DJ LeMahieu homer in the top of the eighth with a run on a wild pitch that allowed Michael A. Taylor to score from third to tie it back up, Sean Doolittle retired two batters and got up 0-2 on Ian Desmond before going to a full count and grooving a fastball that the former National hit out to center for what ended up being the winning run in a 6-5 win.
“Obviously I’m really frustrated with the result of that at bat,” Doolittle told reporters. “What I’m most frustrated by is that I was ahead in the count, 0-2, and I had three chances to put him away and I threw three pitches that frankly weren’t even close. I think I was trying to do a little too much, I got away from myself and wasn’t focusing on just executing. I think I kind of got caught up in some of the energy there and left three that were way too high — they didn’t even serve a purpose, and I let him back in the at bat and he made me pay for it.”
There were plenty of mistakes, of course. Bryce Harper got doubled up for an inning-ending 8-4-3 sprinting while he was sprinting back to first from halfway to third base just as a flyout Howie Kendrick hit to center was caught by Blackmon.
Matt Wieters homered for the second straight day, but also got thrown out trying to steal the ninth base of his ten-year career after a hit-by-pitch put him on to start the top of the eighth.
Harper’s gaffe? “He thought, we all thought the ball was crushed,” Martinez said, “... so he thought the ball was going to be ... off the wall, and he went, when he turned second and looked back, the ball was caught.”
Did the Nationals’ skipper give Wieters the green light to try to swipe a bag?
“He ran,” Martinez explained. “We know [Adam] Ottavino was a ‘2.0’ to home, so he went and you know what, I was okay with it, I really was.”
Weiters said first base coach Tim Bogar told him what Ottavino’s time to the plate was and he thought he could put himself in scoring position, but Martinez said it wasn’t something they’d discussed before the catcher tried.
“Myself and [Bogar], we know which guys we can possibly steal on. He was definitely one on the radar. Like I said, he doesn’t hold runners on well, he’s a ‘2.0’ to home plate.”
The Rockies tried their best to give the series finale away, giving up ten walks, with a wild pitch, error, and passed ball all helping the Nationals, but in the end Martinez’s team lost their seventh in the last ten and ninth in their last twelve heading into this week’s three-game set with the Mets.
“We’ve got to play tomorrow,” Martinez said when asked how they move on from the rough homestand. “Worry about tomorrow. It’s just another game. I told the guys, ‘Hey, keep your heads up, go into there tomorrow and play like we’re capable of playing.’”
“Let’s come out tomorrow ready to play tomorrow,” he added. “That’s how we go about it.
“Let’s stay in the here and now, be present every day. And if we can do that, like I said, we’re going to hit — like I said, I see signs of guys starting to come out of it.”