The St. Louis Cardinals scored all the runs they needed in last night’s 5-1 win in the top of the first inning.
Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong connected for back-to-back, one-out singles off of Max Scherzer, and Marcell Ozuna stepped in next and sent a fly to right that Victor Robles, (who was starting in right field after Juan Soto was scratched late, forcing Davey Martinez to mix up his outfield), misread and had to dive for late, after picking it up, but he came up empty on what he misjudged into an RBI double, 1-0.
José Martínez sent a grounder toward short in the at bat that followed, and rookie shortstop Carter Kieboom charged it but had to lunge and reach around Ozuna, who was on his way toward third base, allowing the ball to get through the infield for a two-run single that made it 3-0 Cards.
“Kieboom got caught up with the runner, and backed up, should have just came and got the ball,” Martinez told reporters after the Nationals’ third straight loss to the Cardinals.
Kieboom explained that it wasn’t interference, though Ozuna was actually called out when a similar situation played out later in the game, and Kieboom just went straight for the ball.
“It’s only interference if I run into him,” Kieboom said of the first inning encounter on the basepaths.
“I started to go towards the ball and I went and dove ahead for the ball and it was a clean play on both ends, just that’s what happened.”
Martinez was asked about what he’s seen from Kieboom overall since the 21-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick was called up to play short in the majors.
“He’s just young,” the second-year skipper said.
“You’re seeing a young, 21-year-old kid playing in the major leagues. The game sometimes — you come up here, the game speeds up on you a little bit, we’ve just got to get him to slow down, relax, and play the game the way he’s been playing his whole life, but he’s got to just let the game kind of come to him, slow down a little bit, the game is speeding up on him a little bit right now, but he’s going to be fine.”
“That’s something I’ve always done is try to slow the game down,” Kieboom said. “I don’t feel like it’s going too fast at all, I do feel comfortable out there.”
But if the game was, as Martinez said, speeding up on the shortstop, how can he try to slow it down?
“He’s just got to relax, take it one step at a time, like I told him, I said, ‘Hey, take your walks, play good defense, and run the bases, I mean there’s constants that you can do out there, one is play good defense, the other is run the bases hard and try to take your walks, put the ball in play.”
Did Martinez think Kieboom (who went 0 for 3 with a walk) took his frustration over the play in the field to the plate?
“I know he was frustrated,” the manager said, “but for a 21-year-old kid, he’s really poised, he really is, and he understands the game and he’s learning, he’s learning how to play up in the major leagues, so we’ve got to stay positive with him and keep him going.”
Scherzer, asked about the mistakes by his fielders which cost him, said that it happens to everyone.
“I make mistakes,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“I’m not here to worry about other people’s mistakes. If you do, that’s a losing mentality. You just got to go out there and compete. And do everything you can to win the ballgame.
“Unfortunately, tonight they made more winning plays than we did. And it’s frustrating when you lose.”
“I’m sure it’s frustrating for Max, too, but true to form, he’s a competitor,” Martinez said.
“Max didn’t say one word about it, went out there and pitched incredibly after that. He kept us in the ballgame.”
“It’s just unfortunate when pitchers do their job and you don’t back it up behind them,” Kieboom said.