Davey Martinez lamented after the Washington Nationals’ 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Friday night, that his hitters were aggressive and chasing pitches out of the zone, and they left 12 runners on base on the night, going 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, which he said was something they had to improve upon in Game 4 of the World Series.
“We need to -- we left a lot of runners stranded yesterday,” Martinez explained. “We need to be aggressive, but aggressive in the strike zone.
“We chased a lot of balls outside the strike zone yesterday. And I don’t mind our guys being aggressive, but I want them to be aggressive in the strike zone today.
“We were one or two big hits away from blowing that game open, so hopefully we get those today.”
The Nationals were, however, going up against a pitcher, in Astros’ righty Jose Urquidy, that only one batter (Asdrúbal Cabrera - 0 for 2, 2 Ks) had seen before.
“This is the first time we’re going to see him,” Martinez told reporters.
“And when you face a guy for the first time, like I said, I like for our guys to be aggressive.
“We’ve got a bunch of aggressive hitters, but we’ve got to get the ball in the strike zone and we’ve got to see pitches.
“I think we want to get off early. I tell these guys all the time, ‘Hey, scoring first in these big games like this, it’s important. But let’s get the ball in the strike zone, let them work a little bit, and we’ll go from there and see how he does.’”
Urquidy knew what he was getting into too, even though he hadn’t faced the Nationals, as he said after learning he would be the opener on Friday night.
“They are very good hitters,” the 24-year-old rookie said. “They attack very good the zone. I will try to do my best with all my stuff pitch by pitch.”
The other challenge for the Nationals was that they were going to face a number of pitchers as the Astros pieced together a bullpen start.
“Yeah,” Martinez said, “we’ve got to recognize the guy we’re facing first and, like I said, try to score early on him and then go from there.
“For the most part we faced these guys already in the first three games, so I think they know what to expect. So we’ve just got to go out there and work good at-bats. And we typically are good about doing that. We’ve just got to go out there and, like I said, play our game.”
The one positive, three games into the series, Martinez said, was that they’d already seen most of the pitchers on the Astros’ roster.
“Yeah. Like I said, we’ve seen these guys for the most part for three games now. Getting a chance to actually see them and face them, it helps a lot.
“So I’m assuming today we’ll be a little better off knowing what to expect when these guys come in.”
Urquidy tossed two scoreless to start, on 24 pitches, working around one hit, a two-out single by Anthony Rendon in the first.
He ended up going five innings on 67 pitches, and left the mound with a 4-0 lead, which was up to 8-1 after six and a half, and the Astros held it there and cruised to a series-tying win in Washington, with Josh James, Will Harris, Héctor Rondón, Brad Peacock, and Chris Devenski following Urquidy on the mound and limiting the Nationals to two hits, four walks, and one run.
Urquidy, who signed out of Mexico in 2015, had never pitched above A-ball before the 2019 campaign, and he made just nine appearances for the Astros this season, five in July, then four in September, before making two relief appearances in the postseason before his start last night.
“Pitching in the big leagues was my dream. I always imagined playing the World Series and winning the game for us. Something very big for me, big year for me. And I think I’m proud of myself,” he said after the win, which knotted the World Series up at 2-2 with one more to play in D.C. before the teams head back to Houston.
“We haven’t hit the last couple of days,” Martinez told reporters after the second straight loss to the Astros.
“But I’ve got confidence we’ll bounce back and be ready to play tomorrow. It’s just one of those things. It’s baseball. And it’s the World Series.
“I just told the boys, Hey, we’re in the World Series. We’re going to play Game 5, tied 2-2. Who would have thought that in the beginning?”
In the last two games, the Nationals are a combined 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position and 21 left on base, in 4-1 and 8-1 losses.
The Astros bounced back nicely after losing the first two games in Minute Maid Park, and now the momentum is on their side.
“Our confidence level is at a pretty good level,” Hinch said after the second win in a row in the nation’s capital.
“We’re just trying to win the game today, which we did. Today was the biggest game of the series to this point. Tomorrow I’ll tell you it’s the biggest game of the series at that point.”
How do the Nationals stop the Astros’ momentum and start to turn things back in their favor?
“Score more runs than them,” Anthony Rendon told reporters.