With the non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching (4:00 PM EDT on Tuesday, July 31st), the Washington Nationals dropped the second straight game to the Miami Marlins (46-61) on Sunday afternoon, leaving the defending, back-to-back NL East champions a game under .500 at 52-53 on the season. So do they buy and hope the over-achieving Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies fold down the stretch, or sell, and get what they can for some of their soon-to-be free agents?
Davey Martinez was asked after the 11th shutout loss of the season (the 10th since June 1st) how he would pitch the front office on the idea of adding pieces in the hope of making a run or at least keeping things as they are right now so the Nationals can see what they can do now that they’re (finally) fielding the roster they expected to when the season began.
“You’re seeing our lineup in full now, and guys are starting to play baseball,” Martinez said.
“I told you this before and I told everybody before, when you come off the DL after missing that many months, you’ve got to go through Spring Training, it’s not easy,” he continued.
“I’m talking about big league Spring Training, and our guys have done that, and they’re playing better, they are, and now our lineup is stretched — we’ve got length in our lineup, so we get [Stephen] Strasburg back, he’s a big part of it, we get [Sean] Doolittle back, he’s a big part of it, we’re going to keep pushing, we’re going to keep going.
“Not by any means are we giving up. We’re not done yet, I know they’re not up there, I know [GM Mike] Rizzo is not that guy, I know the front office ain’t those people, so we’ve just got to keep pushing.
“We’ve got to do it there, and regardless of what happens after this deadline, we’ve got to play baseball consistently every day.”
That’s something the 2018 Nationals haven’t done since May, however. After a rocky 13-16 start in March/April, they put together a 20-7 record in the second month of the season, and were 33-22, tied for first in the NL East on June 1st.
Since then, Martinez’s squad is 19-30, and after Sunday’s loss to the Marlins they were 6.0 games back in the division and 6.0 games back in the race for the second Wild Card spot.
“There’s nobody sugarcoating this thing,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday.
“Our starting pitching since June 1st has been poor, with the exception of Max [Scherzer], I think we’re 3-17, our starting pitchers, in that time frame. We’re not offensively efficient.
“Our bullpen has been overused and overtaxed just because we’ve got starters going less than five innings on a consistent basis. Someone’s got to step up. Pitchers got to pitch better, players got to play better, GM’s got to GM better, we’re all in this thing together, and when one succeeds we all succeed and when one fails we all fail. That’s how I look at this thing. And you’re never going to hear a negative word from me in the media, in the public, but behind closed doors they get the message unfiltered and in no uncertain terms and they know it’s time to step up.”
The fact that they managed just one run in the final 19 innings against the Fish, and came out flat in the series finale surprised their first-year skipper.
“I’m not happy about it, of course,” Martinez said.
“We’re playing — we’re playing for something, and they get it. It’s just one of those days. For whatever reason we just came out and we couldn’t swing the bats today. I expect them to come out Tuesday with a little more oomph, and let’s go get it. It’s there. We’ve just got to play better, we’ve got to play consistent, and we’ve got to play to win every game. I mean every game.”
“This is definitely a pivotal point for us right now, so we’ve got to come out and play every day,” Martinez said. “I talk about one game at a time, but we’ve got to show up that game and play hard every inning of every game, every pitch. That’s what we’ve got to do. If we’re going to get back in this thing we’ve got to come out every single day and play like it’s the last game of the season and play to win.”
How different, if at all, will the lineup Martinez pencils in on Tuesday night look from the one that struggled to get anything going on Sunday?