WASHINGTON, D.C.: Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez and Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked on Thursday about the players-only meeting the team held the previous day, after they were swept by Boston’s Red Sox. It was the fifth straight loss, the Nationals’ 20th loss in the last 29, and their eighth shutout loss over that stretch.
Something had to change, and according to what Martinez said before Thursday’s series opener with Miami, the meeting, in his mind, was a sign of the players taking ownership, and determining it was up to them to turn things around.
“I’ve been to a lot of those players’ meetings,” Martinez explained.
“Everybody gets a chance to speak up, it shows a sense of accountability, and actually they take ownership in those meetings, so I think it’s a good thing. I don’t know what was said in that meeting, nor do I want to know, I just hope that they come out today and they play with the same intensity that they’ve been playing with, cause they’ve actually been playing well, but they know what we’re playing for, and I think that’s what the gist of the meeting was.”
“We want to make sure that we all stay together,” he continued, “... and we’re in this for the long haul, so I think sometimes those meetings turn out to be a good thing.”
“I’ve seen players’ meetings have some kind of effect positively at times,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies during his weekly interview on Thursday morning.
“Those meetings are kind of frustration meetings where guys can vent their frustrations and kind of tell between teammate to teammate how things are going and what direction we want to go in, how do we want to play the game,” the GM explained.
“It’s kind of ‘Remember how good we are,’ and, ‘Remember how we played in May,’ and all those type of things. There could be a positive bounce, and a positive effect, but at the end of the day, the season is built 162 games for this long haul of baseball, and you have to weather a lot of storms, a lot of peaks and valleys.”
The object, Rizzo said, is just to worry about themselves at this point, and straighten things out so that they can play up to their capabilities.
“We’ve got to play better baseball,” he said. “We can’t worry about the Braves or the Phillies or the Red Sox or the Yankees or anybody but ourselves, because the way that we’re playing isn’t going to get it done, so we have to play baseball like we’re capable of, like the history of these players are, and if we do that I think we’ll be fine, and a 7.0-game lead at the Break isn’t insurmountable, it’s not a great position to be in, but larger deficits have been done, and I still believe in the talent-level of this team and the capabilities of this team and I think we’re still the two-time defending champs of this [division], back-to-back, and I think that until they knock us off the mountain then we’re still the champs and we have to act and play like the champions.”
Martinez was asked if there’s a message that can be delivered in a players-only meeting that a manager can’t deliver.
“I’ve delivered all kinds of messages,” he said.
“I think that they felt it was time to take a little ownership, and it’s always good. Like I said, accountability is really good. So I’m proud of those guys, whoever decided to have the meeting, if it was a bunch of them, one guy, or whatever, I’m proud that they did and they got together and they all got to speak up.”
Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton both expressed the belief on Wednesday that the challenge of having to fight their way back into the race for the division title could be a good thing in the end, and Martinez said that regardless of where they are in the standings, the Nationals are still a target for other teams.
“I’ve always said this, and even now, that there has always been a target on our team, and I still believe that,” he said, “I really do.
“Regardless of where we’re at in the standings, we’re really good, and I think other teams know that. I talk to other teams coming in, coaches, players, whatever, and they always say, ‘Hey, this thing ain’t over. We know you guys are good.’ But we’ve got to believe that within, the word hope to me is — it’s not proactive, it’s reactive. The word belief is proactive. So we need to believe that we’re going to win every day and when we start doing that on a daily basis, it will happen, and that’s what we need to start doing.”
At the start, it did not look like Thursday would be the day they would turn things around.
With starter Jeremy Hellickson battling flu-like symptoms and trying to soldier through, he took the mound and gave up one run in the first and six in the second, putting Washington behind 7-0 before the game even really got started.
It was 9-0 before the Nationals got on the board on a Trea Turner homer to center off Miami rookie Pablo Lopez, then they added four in the fifth with Adam Eaton taking a bases loaded walk in a pinch hit appearance, another run scoring on a Turner groundout, and two coming in on a Juan Soto double, 9-5.
Then the Nationals added a run on a sac fly by Daniel Murphy in the bottom of the sixth, and loaded the bases with one out, bringing Turner up again, and he crushed a 97 mph 1-2 pitch from reliever Adam Conley and hit a go-ahead grand slam into the left field bullpen to make it 10-9 Nationals.
They went on to win 14-12. Trea Turner went 3 for 5 with three runs scored and eight RBIs. Matt Adams, in his first game back in the lineup after coming off the DL, went 4 for 5 with three runs scored. Michael A. Taylor went 2 for 3 with three runs scored.
It was Turner who really sparked things with the first home run.
“When Trea hit the home run we went 9-1, it was like, we felt like we took the lead,” Martinez said. “They were jacked up.”
“I truly believe that the whole time they felt like, hey just be patient, this will turn around,” he added.
“And like I said, when Trea hit the home run it kind of uplifted them and they felt really good and they got after it.”
Turner said he believed they still had a shot even when it went to 9-0.
“For me, yeah. I can’t speak for everybody, but we were down 7-0 I felt like we still for sure had a shot. 9-0 hurts a little bit more, but we did it,” Turner told reporters.
“I think once we got that first run on the board, it kind of just got the momentum back on our side and continued to push and I think that’s what we’re capable of.”
“We just never gave up,” Adams said. “We got down big and we just started chipping away.
“Put together some good ABs, pitchers started getting outs, and things just kind of fell in sync for us.”
Turner said he thought the win could be the jumping off point for something big.
“For sure. I think that what I keep talking about is the momentum, it was a huge momentum swing for us if we can continue to ride that and play good baseball like we did ... after maybe the first four innings or so, but play good baseball and I think we can beat anybody.”