Following the third loss in SunTrust Park over weekend and their fourth straight loss overall, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters his club needed to come out swinging in the series finale with the Atlanta Braves to turn things around and get back on the right track.
“Stay with it,” Martinez said. “Stay in the fight. Keep fighting. We scratched and clawed, we had some good at bats today. We hit the ball hard. We just keep fighting. We’re right there, we’re playing good baseball, just stay in it.”
“I say this a lot,” Martinez continued, and he does, “... when you come out and score first — we haven’t done that in these few games — so we have to come out and score early.
“I think that puts the pressure on the other team, and we just haven’t done that, so let’s come out tomorrow and just keep playing good baseball and try to get that run or two early.”
“We’re hitting the ball hard,” the manager added “... but just not getting that one hit that we need, that one break-open hit early, so let’s just, like I said, come back tomorrow and try to knock the doors down early, and get something going early.”
Adam Eaton “knocked the doors” down with a two-run home run to left-center off Braves’ starter Mike Soroka in the second at bat of Sunday’s series finale, lining one out after Trea Turner singled to start the game, then Yan Gomes hit a solo shot in the second, Juan Soto homered in the third, and Gomes went deep again in the seventh, 5-1, before starter Max Scherzer singled, stole a base, and scored on an RBI double by Eaton that made it 6-1, in what ended up a 9-4 win.
Martinez wasn’t there at the end, he got tossed in the fifth, after home plate umpire Mike Estabrook ejected Trea Turner for arguing a called third strike, so bench coach Chip Hale took over the managerial duties and even handled the post-game press conference after the Nationals avoided a sweep at the hands of the NL East’s first place Braves.
“Obviously early on it was great,” Hale said, “... getting the big hits early, the home run by Eaton, it just lets you take a deep breath. I mean it seems like every game we’ve been down, we’ve been hitting a lot of balls hard that have been caught, they have been playing really good defense, they’ve been positioned really well, and finally we got a few to fall. They had to go in the stands to fall, so that made it good.”
The Nationals also got a solid outing from Max Scherzer, who went six innings on 98 total pitches, striking out nine of 22 batters he faced, while giving up one run on two hits, one a solo home run by Matt Joyce in the bottom of the second.
“He battled,” Hale said. “This is a tough team, and they have tough at bats, and it’s tough to get deep in the game for a starter, so to give us the length he did was great.”
Scherzer had more to give too, but when the Nationals went up 8-1 with a four-run seventh, Hale and Co. decided to go to the bullpen.
“I felt good even coming out,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr. “I was even ready to pitch the seventh inning, really thought I had 110 pitches today.”
Dropping 3 of 4 in Atlanta left Washington 9.0 games out in the NL East as of Monday night, +3.0 games up in the first Wild Card Spot as they head to Minnesota for a three-game series with the Twins, which starts at 7:40 PM EDT tonight in Target Field.