Washington’s loss in Busch Stadium in St. Louis, in the series finale with the Cardinals back on Wednesday afternoon, was their 10th in 16 games, a rough stretch at the wrong time, which left the Nationals just 1.0 game up on the Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the NL’s top Wild Card spot, and 2.5 up on the Cubs at the start of play on Friday, after Chicago had dropped their fourth in a row earlier in the day.
The tough couple weeks to start the month of September followed a stretch which saw the Nationals go 52-25 between June 1st and August 31st.
Max Scherzer, who took the loss in the third of three with the Cards, said afterwards that he and his teammates needed to get back to playing like they were when they were fighting to get themselves back into the postseason picture after an awful start to the 2019 campaign.
They needed, Scherzer said, to, “... play baseball how we were playing when we were on a good win streak. Just do everything right. Play as a team, score runs, pitch well, bullpen does their job, play good defense, and do the little things right. Run the bases right. It just takes a team effort. Everybody’s got to have a hand in it. It can’t be one guy, it can’t be two guys, it’s got to be all 25, and guys going out there getting contributions from everywhere.
“Everybody has a hand in why we win, and if we’re in a little funk, fine, so be it, but we can easily get out of it.”
Would a series with the Miami Marlins, against whom the Nationals were 13-3 this season heading into the three-game set in South Florida, help them start to turn things around?
How about the return of their manager? Davey Martinez, who’d missed the end of the series finale with the Atlanta Braves in D.C. last Sunday, and all three with the Cardinals in St. Louis after experiencing chest pains in the dugout and going to a hospital in the nation’s capital, where he underwent a cardiac catheterization procedure, rejoined the team in time for the series with the Fish, once he was cleared to fly and travel to meet up with the team.
Martinez seemed eager to move past the health concerns and get back to work on winning a Wild Card spot when he spoke with reporters before the series opener in Marlins Park.
“I want to thank, first and foremost, my family, my friends, this team, people all over MLB that reached out to me, fans, everybody,” the second-year skipper said.
“It was unbelievable, overwhelming, and thank you for your prayers and your thoughts. I’m good to go. Bottom line is I feel good, I’m good to go, and I’m very happy and excited to rejoin the team.”
Martinez said he wouldn’t change his approach to his job, or his intensity, though he did say he had to make some personal adjustments.
“I’m going to be myself,” he said, “I don’t how to be anything else, but I’m not going to drink any coffee, I’m going to stick to water for a while, but like I said, I’m excited to get back out there and manage the games and watch our boys play.”
Being back in the thick of things, he said, would be a welcome change after a few days of forced relaxation.
“Regardless of what happens right now,” he said, “... being around these guys, [they’re] a great bunch of guys. They brighten up my day every day, and the conversations that we have daily, I missed that the last few days, so I’m glad to be back.”
Martinez’s club beat the Marlins for the 14th time in 17 games in 2019 in the series opener on Friday night, 6-4 final, welcoming their manager back with a fairly clean game that left them 1.0 game up on the Brewers for the top Wild Card spot and 3.0 up on the Cubs.
“I loved being back,” Martinez said after the win.
“Much better being in the dugout, I can tell you that, it was a lot of fun, and I tell the guys, like I told them today, this game is about having fun, it really is, and I enjoy every minute of it, and just watching these guys play, every day and what they do and how they go about their business, they have a good time and they love to play the game and you can tell that they play for each other, which is nice.”
Atlanta clinched the NL East with a win on Friday, so the Nationals know they’re playing for one of the two Wild Card spots now, so even with the disappointment of not reaching their goal of winning the division, they’re still in control of their own destiny when it comes to an opportunity to play their way into an NLDS matchup.
“Now we’ve got a chance to do something special,” Martinez said.
“We set our own destiny right now, so we’ve got to keep grinding, keep going, and we’ve got ten more games and we’re going to keep fighting.”