Davey Martinez and the Nationals took each of the first two games of the NLCS with the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium, and now they’re back in Washington for Games 3-5 with an opportunity to earn a trip to the World Series.
Will they bring the World Series back into D.C. for the first time since 1933? That’s for all of us to speculate on, but the Nationals, as always, are focused on going “1-0” every day, the way they have been all season.
“Hey, we’re going home, playing in front of our home fans. It’s kind of nice going back up 2-0 in the series, but those guys are really good over there,” Martinez told reporters, after the 3-1 win in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.
“The series is far from over,” the second-year skipper added.
“We got a day off tomorrow, we’re going to spend the night, get a good rest and work out tomorrow for a little while, and then get back at it the next day.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Cardinals, who were held to a run on four hits in the first two games of the Championship Series, with Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer holding them at bay in 2-0 and 3-1 wins, and now it’s Stephen Strasburg’s turn.
“We got Stras on the mound,” Martinez said, “so hopefully he comes out and gives us what he can. And hopefully he does what Sanchy and Scherzer did the last two games. But we still got a long way to go. My message after the game was still, ‘Hey, 1-0 every day.’”
Cardinals’ skipper Mike Shildt’s approach to the series after his team dropped each of the first two games?
“Yeah, clearly we’re going to fight for every game regardless of where we are,” Shildt said.
“You got to get to four somehow. Right now we got to get to one. Obviously being in a 2-0 spot is not ideal, but I’m still very, I feel very strongly about our chances in this series for a lot of reasons I don’t really need to get into.”
What adjustments do they have to make going forward?
“We have done everything we had wanted to do in this series but a big one and that’s to be able to put some at-bats together and score,” he explained.
“Our pitching’s been outstanding,” Shildt added, “our defense has been as good as always, our baserunners have been very opportunistic, we just haven’t had many opportunities. We just need to continue to do what we’re doing, our preparation’s good, our feel for what’s going on in the competition’s really good, we just need to be able to string together more consistent at-bats and be able to pitch with, or play with the lead and go from there. But we’ll show up on Monday ready to go, I can tell you that.”
For a team that started the season 19-31, and managed to become just the ninth club in MLB history to go from 12 games under .500 to the postseason, with a 74-38 record from May to the end of the regular season, it has been a long journey for the Nationals.
A reporter noted after Saturday’s win, that they’ve now had no-hit bids in each of their first two games, had a reliever return from paternity leave to save a game, and they’ve done all they’ve done with a manager who just had a heart procedure a few weeks back.
“It sounds like a book,” Martinez said, “... but yeah, I mean this year, this year was definitely not scripted. I mean we have been through a lot and I’m proud of the guys sticking together and we’re at a good spot right now. So they’re having fun. The biggest thing is they’re having a lot of fun, they’re enjoying it. And I tell them, hey, take every moment in, because I played for 16 years before I got a chance to play in the playoffs. So it doesn’t happen every day.”
“It’s fun,” Scherzer said after taking a no-hit bid into the seventh inning on Saturday.
“This team’s got a lot of personality and a lot of grit to it. And we got — really 25 guys, no matter who it is, when their number gets called they’re going to lay it all on the line for each other. It’s such a treat to be in the clubhouse like this and have, to know that that’s the type of baseball we’re playing and right now it just seems like anybody who gets their number called is going to do something big. Somebody might make a mistake and then come back and do something big for the team. This is really, it’s not just one guy carrying this team or two guys, it’s really just a collective of everybody out there doing their job.”
Going back into Nationals Park with a 2-0 advantage, even if your focus is on going 1-0 every day, is an exciting prospect for the team.
“I’m excited,” Adam Eaton said after going 1 for 4 with two runs driven in on Saturday in St. Louis.
“Our park has been absolutely legit when it comes to the fan base and them coming out and supporting us. And helping start the wave type deal, with the emotion and just getting it on our side right away. So I think we’re both really excited to go home, play in a familiar park where people are cheering for you instead of against you. So I’m excited.”
“Yeah, I mean the atmosphere in the playoffs at Nationals Park has been incredible,” Scherzer added.
“They come out and they go nuts from the first pitch. So I have a feeling it’s even going to be more crazy given what we have done and really our first postseason win as an organization, I think that means a lot to everybody in DC, so it should be a fun time.”
“I think it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be exciting, for sure,” Matt Adams said after he connected for a pinch hit single and scored one of two runs the Nationals put up in the top of the eighth in Game 2.
“We’re super-excited that we’re up 2-0, but that team on the other side is a very, very good ballclub, so we’ve got to keep our heads down and keep working and not take anything for granted and just step out on the field in Game 3 ready to go.”
“I think it being an NLCS series for the first time, it’s going to be a great atmosphere and I expect the fans to be very excited and really into the game,” Michael A. Taylor said after a big game in which he homered and went 2 for 4 the plate, though he did misplay a liner in center which led to the Cardinals’ first run of the series. “It’s going to be fun.”
“Yeah, I mean it’s another game” Strasburg said, “... and I think we have done a pretty good job thus far of taking it one day at a time. I think it was kind of out of necessity back in May. So we’re just going to stick to what we have been doing and keep leaving it all out there on the field.”
NLCS baseball in D.C.? You only have to wait until 7:38 PM EDT tonight for it to become a reality.