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Washington Nationals: Score first, score more, no mercy, sir...

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Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez on importance of scoring early and adding runs.

Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked before the series finale in St. Louis, about the importance of scoring first, which the Nats failed to do in any of their previous three games with the Cardinals, all of them losses.

When they do score first, the Nationals were 47-23 on the season before the start of the series finale in Busch Stadium.

Asked what he wanted to see from his team in the fourth of four with the NL Central’s third- place team, who’d won eight-straight overall to put themselves back in the picture for the postseason, the first-year skipper said he wanted to see the Nationals, “... working good at bats, and pitch count, getting the pitcher’s pitch count up early.

“I mean all those little things matter, getting a guy on, moving a guy if he’s on second base with no outs.

“Just scoring a point. You score one point in the first inning it puts a lot of pressure on the other team, but just have good at bats, generally good at bats, and if we can do that, when we score early the results are usually pretty good.

Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

“So I always tell the guys, ‘Hey, let’s score first,’ and if it’s not the first inning and they don’t score the first inning, we’ve still got a chance to score first.”

As he stressed on Wednesday night, however, after the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the Cardinals, scoring early isn’t enough, they’ve got to add runs and take advantage of opportunities if they arise.

“We’ve got to score early, you know, we talk about that every day about scoring first, and for our pitchers to keep us in the game,” Martinez said.

“We can’t squander the opportunities that we get, we’ve got to make those opportunities count.”

After the Cardinals held the Nationals’ hitters off the board through eight innings in the third game of the series, Daniel Murphy homered and Matt Wieters drove in a run in the ninth, but the comeback attempt fell short.

Martinez said he liked the fight late in the game, but needed everyone fighting like that from the start.

“We’ve got to start doing that the whole game,” Martinez explained, “from the first inning on, and tack on runs, those are the things. Just don’t get the lead early, we’ve got to keep going and play the whole nine innings.”

Bryce Harper doubled in a run in the top of the first in the finale, then Anthony Rendon hit an RBI single in the third as the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and they added two in the fourth on an RBI single by Harper, and another in the fifth when back-to-back errors by the Cardinals resulted in a 5-1 deficit for the home team.

They needed those runs too, because the Cards rallied in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three to make it a one-run game, but the Nationals held on for a 5-4 win with Justin Miller tossing two scoreless in the seventh and eighth after Tanner Roark was done, and before Koda Glover earned his first save since June 6, 2017.

It was closer than it had to be. The Nationals went 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position on the night, leaving 12 runners on base.

They settled for one run in the third after loading the bases with one out, stranded two in the fourth, left them loaded again in the fifth, and came up empty after the fifth inning as the Cards rallied.

“When you have an opportunity to put teams away,” Martinez said after the win in the fourth of four in Busch Stadium, which snapped a four-game slide for Washington and ended an eight-game winning streak for St. Louis.

“You’ve got to do that, especially how hot the Cardinals are playing right now, they’re going to come back. We had our opportunity and we couldn’t really cash in, and we had some big hits, but yet we could have had a couple more and we couldn’t cash in, but we’ve just got to keep playing baseball. We’re swinging the bats well, we really are, so I’m proud of the guys for battling today and our bullpen and Tanner for giving us an opportunity to win the game.”