BALTIMORE, MD: In his own playing career, Davey Martinez raked in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, going 35 for 99 (.354/.436/.465) overall with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, 16 walks, and 15 Ks in 119 plate appearances in the Baltimore Orioles’ home.
Monday afternoon, the now 53-year-old, first-year manager returned to OPACY with the Washington Nationals for the start of a three-game Interleague matchup with the Nats’ regional rivals.
“It’s definitely a good place to hit,” Martinez told reporters before the series opener.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming here and playing, but like I said, you still have to go out there and compete, those other guys can hit it as well.
“So Gio [Gonzalez has] to be sharp and we’ve just got to go out there and play our game.”
“It’s a lot of fun, especially here on Memorial Day, and I’m just looking forward to it.
“Those guys [the Orioles], they’ve got pretty good players, I know the pitcher really well, [Alex] Cobb, I had him in Tampa, and we’re looking forward to the matchup.”
Baltimore had the edge, historically, going into this week’s series, with a 38-26 record against Washington, and a 21-11 mark vs the Nationals in Oriole Park, though the Nats arrived on Camden Yards with the second-best road mark in the majors after sweeping three straight from the Marlins in Miami, improving to 17-8 outside D.C. in 2018.
Martinez’s Nationals made it four in a row on the road with a 6-0 win over the Orioles in front of an announced crowd of 36,139, many of them Nationals fans, who watched the Nats’ hitters connect for 10 hits total, five off Cobb, who gave up three runs, and five off reliever Richard Bleier, who surrendered three runs in just 2⁄3 of an inning on the mound.
Gonzalez, who hadn’t earned a win over the Orioles since he was part of the Oakland A’s rotation in 2009, tossed 7 2⁄3 scoreless, giving up six hits and two walks, with three Ks in what ended up 114-pitch start.
Martinez said he sent Gonzalez back out for a final inning of work in the eighth on a short leash, and finally pulled him when the left-hander gave up a two-out single.
“He said he was good and he was adamant about going back out,” Martinez explained, “and I reiterated to him, I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got 110 pitches, I mean, that’s it,’ so when he got to that last hitter, he looked in the dugout and said, ‘Alright, last hitter.’ And he was good. It all started with him today and the boys followed and we played good defense and he threw a lot a ground balls, turned some double plays, which was nice.”
Gonzalez induced 10 ground ball outs from 28 batters, and the Nationals turned three double plays on the day, erasing a leadoff single by Danny Valencia in the second, a Jonathan Schoop hit that led off the fourth, and another leadoff single by Valencia in the seventh.
“Guys made some great plays,” Gonzalez said of the help from his defense.
“Everyone played a hell of a role,” he added, noting that catcher Spencer Kieboom, “... was great behind the dish. He was unbelievable.”
As for the crowd in Oriole Park for the first of three in the regional rivalry? Martinez told the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell that his team noticed that their fans traveled to see the series opener in Baltimore.
“We had a lot of Nats fans when we were in Miami,” Martinez said. “We appreciated all the support today. Don’t think that the boys don’t hear it and respond to it.”
With the win, the Nationals are 18-8 on the road this season vs their 12-14 mark at home in the nation’s capital.
Asked about the Nationals’ success on the road over the first two months, Gonzalez said, “... it feels like we play very competitive baseball wherever we go.”