Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked after opening the season with eleven straight within the division (all of them against Philly and New York) about moving on from their NL East rivals, two of four teams who are expected to compete for the division title, but maintaining the intensity that was present in the opening stretch.
“I think for me every time you step on the field you’re competing, no matter what team it is,” Martinez said. “We’re going to come out and compete every day at the highest level, that’s what I tell the guys, and do what we do best.
Going into this weekend’s three-game set in Miami, against a Marlins team that had won just four of their first 19 games, with losses in four straight and nine of their last ten, the second-year skipper said that his squad needed to stay focused on the task at hand.
“We’ve got to concentrate on today,” Martinez said before the series opener.
“They understand that, hey, at any given day we’re facing a good opponent with Caleb Smith, so we’ve got to be ready to go and we’ve got to play our kind of baseball.”
“Every game matters,” he added, “regardless of who you play. And they’re in our division.
“So we’ve just got to go out there today and like I said, Aníbal [Sánchez] has to do his thing, keep us in the ballgame, and we’ve got to score some runs.”
They scored one early in the series opener, but struggled to get much of anything going against the Marlins’ left-hander after that, and the game was tied at 1-1 after five, but a tough sixth for Sánchez, in which he walked in the go-ahead run before handing a bases-loaded jam to Matt Grace, who hit the first batter he faced to force in the eventual winning run, decided the first of three in South Florida.
“[Smith] was good,” Martinez said after the loss. “I bet you he threw 75% strikes, which — before we came in here, the key thing was to try to get him in the strike zone. Well, he was in the strike zone and pitched really well. We had opportunities. We left 10 runners on base. Like I said before, you know, we’ve got to drive in those runs with men on third base, less than two outs. Those are important runs. We’ve got to do those little things, and you can’t let — when you have an opportunity to put teams away you’ve got to try to put them away, you can’t let them linger, because you never know what’s going to happen in this game.”
Smith threw 70% strikes, so Martinez was close, and the Nats, who started the night with a .321 AVG with a runner on third and less than two outs, good for the eighth best AVG in the National League in those situations, with their 26 RBIs in those at bats sixth-most amongst the 15 NL teams, went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position overall.
Juan Soto (swinging K) and Ryan Zimmerman (fly to right) failed to bring Anthony Rendon in from third after he reached the base with one out in the top of the sixth, and the Marlins took the lead in the bottom of the inning, with a bases-loaded walk and hit-by-pitch putting the home team up for good.
“For me it’s not trying to do too much,” Martinez said when asked if there was a team-wide fix he could offer. “Just stay in the middle of the field, and like I said, Caleb was good. He was good. He made some really good pitches, but still, you’ve got a guy on third base, less than two outs, just put the ball in play.”