Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked after Tuesday night’s loss to the Twins in the series opener in Minnesota’s Target Field, about facing a pitcher like José Berríos that the Nats’ hitters hadn’t really seen..
Berríos held the Nationals scoreless in seven innings on the mound in what ended up a 5-0 win for the Twins, but the Nats’ second-year manager wasn’t using a lack of familiarity as an excuse.
“We get so much information on guys,” Martinez explained, “... but it’s still — you get all the information you want, when you’re on, you’re on and you’ve got to go up there, and you’ve got to battle.”
“He was good tonight,” the manager added. “We didn’t get very many pitches to hit. When we did — when it seemed like we did, we hit the ball hard, just couldn’t get nothing going.”
Berríos was just the latest in a recent string of high-end arms the Nationals have had to deal with, in a stretch that’s seen them go up against the likes of the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler, and the Braves’ Max Fried, Dallas Keuchel, Julio Teheran, and Mike Soroka, before facing Berríos, with the Nats winning just two of the eight games.
“The last game in Atlanta we hit the ball well,” Martinez said, “and I truly believe when you face a guy like [Berríos] tonight, who — he really commanded the strike zone, but his changeup was good, his slider was good, you have to stay in the middle of the field, I mean really.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday about the offense, which was scoring runs in bunches last month, sputtering right as the stretch run is getting underway.
“Sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat to some of the pitching that we’ve faced,” Rizzo said.
“I know that’s tired kind of reasoning, but we’ve faced some good pitchers, and yeah, we’ve cooled off a little bit, and we just got to stay aggressive. We’ve got to hunt more fastballs and be aggressive against these guys, and when you’re not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, you have to start manufacturing runs a little bit better, play more efficient baseball offensively, and just kind of get back to your old ways of grinding them out, and try to run up pitch counts [on] those good starting pitchers, and see if you can scratch out some runs when your lineup isn’t flourishing like it had been for about the last three months or so.”
As the Nationals’ skipper said, Rizzo told the Junkies that they prepare fastidiously for each series, especially against teams they don’t play too often, with plenty of advance work that prepares them for their opponents.
“It’s a lot of work,” Rizzo said. “It’s a really busy — the first day of each series is the busiest day of the series, because that’s when you’re doing all of your advance reports, we have our advance scouts come in and our advance video guys are putting together the presentation to introduce this new team. Especially a team that — nobody has ever seen Berríos — very few players on our team have seen Berríos in the past, so this guy was brand new to us, so we did a lot of work, and a lot of advance work, and a lot of video work for preparation to the game.
“This guy’s an All-Star-caliber pitcher, and really had three pitches going last night. He’s got a power fastball, he’s got as good a curveball as any right-handed pitcher in the game, and a great changeup and threw strikes.”
“[Aníbal] Sánchez matched him pitch-for-pitch until the seventh,” Rizzo added, “... and he made the first mistake and we paid for it. It’s hard to win games when you have two hits, so that’s kind of the way we looked at it last night. Our goal, like it is every series, is to win series, and we have a chance tonight to even it with [Stephen Strasburg] on the mound, and whenever Stras pitches I like my chances.”
The Nationals, as a team, had a combined 55 plate appearances, and a .302/.327/.491 line against Wednesday’s starter for the Twins, Martín Pérez, and they jumped on the lefty early, scoring two runs on two RBI singles to center in the first, and then added three runs on an RBI double to right by Howie Kendrick and a two-run home run by Ryan Zimmerman in the third, 5-0.
Trea Turner homered in the ninth, to put the Nationals up 6-2, and the evened things up to set up a rubber match tonight in Minneapolis.
With the early runs, and eventual win, the Nats improved to 55-25 this season when they score first.
“We talk about it every day,” Martinez said after the game, “come out and try to get that lead early, you put the pressure on the other team right away, and we did that today.”
“Scoring first is big,” Zimmerman said, when he talked with MASN’s Alex Chappell on the field after going 3 for 4 with the home runs and three RBIs.
“I don’t know what the percentage is, but getting out and getting the momentum on your side, with the pitching staff we have, if we can score first, and then they usually go out and throw a couple of shutdown innings, and it kind of gets the other team on their heels.”