The morning after the Washington Nationals rallied from six down in the ninth and walked off on the New York Mets 11-10 in the nation’s capital, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies about the resilient roster he and his staff assembled in the nation’s capital.
“It’s a team that, first of all, it’s a long, deep lineup with professional hitters, even the young kids are professional hitters,” Rizzo explained, “... and credit goes to Davey [Martinez] and [Hitting Coach] Kevin Long for the type of attitude and grit that’s instilled in these guys. They just don’t want to give up an at bat. It’s kind of a competition up and down the lineup.”
It’s also a lineup that was close to 100% healthy before Adam Eaton was injured, giving the Nationals’ second-year skipper plenty of options when he makes out the lineup card.
“Like I said, it’s a deep, professional hitting lineup,” Rizzo continued, “and when your guys off the bench are Matt Adams, and Howie Kendrick, and now Ryan Zimmerman, and Gerardo Parra and those type of guys, that’s a tough lineup and a tough roster to navigate for any pitcher and it shows. You can’t make many mistakes against these guys and when you do they often make you pay, and sometimes when things go poorly like against [Noah] Syndergaard the other day, you just gotta tip your hat.”
[ed. note - “Syndergaard shut the Nats out for seven innings, allowing just three hits, with 16 set down between the first and sixth innings, striking out 10 of the 24 batters he faced in a 7-3 win this past week.”]
“When you can put that kind of performance against this lineup you’ve had yourself a great day on the mound,” Rizzo added, “but day in and day out, from the beginning of the season until today, they’ve given us a chance to stay in games and win games, and it’s a credit to this coaching staff too for keeping these guys in the mindset that they are.”
Martinez went right-hand heavy with his mix in the series opener with the Atlanta Braves in SunTrust Park last night, trying to take advantage of left-hander Max Fried’s splits, with the 25-year-old southpaw posting a .231/.286/.331 line against vs left-hand bats before the first of four in SunTrust Park, while right-handed hitters had a .289/.344/.448 line against the starter, with the Nats’ line against lefties this season (.285/.357/.480) good for 2nd/1st/2nd across the line among NL teams.
“When you look down on the bench and see the guys that we have, like today, Zim, Matt Adams, Parra, [Asdrúbal] Cabrera, it’s kind of nice,” Martinez said.
“Howie getting a chance to play and hitting behind Soto and [Anthony] Rendon, it’s a pretty good option. But I want to keep all of these guys going, they’ve all been doing really well, and today, especially with Fried pitching, I thought this lineup would be really good against him.”
Going into the series opener with the NL East-leading Braves, the Nationals were 7.0 back in the division, with seven to play against their rivals from Atlanta, and Martinez said that even though the Nats led the Wild Card race, they weren’t giving up on the division.
“We want to catch the Braves,” Martinez explained, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“That Wild Card game is not fun to play in. So we are here to win today. We want to win the division.”
Through seven in SunTrust Park last night, however, Fried had himself a Syndergaard-esque outing, retiring 19 in a row after Anthony Rendon singled for the Nationals’ first hit in the top of the first inning, while striking out nine of the 22 batters he faced in a scoreless outing in a 4-2 win for the home team.
So... tip your cap?
“He was really good,” Martinez said after the loss. “He threw all of his pitches for strikes, and he kept us off-balance for most of the night.”
Asked what, if anything, Nationals’ hitters could have done to adjust, the manager said that there wasn’t much they could have done differently.
“He pounded the strike zone — we were ready, we hit some balls hard, but for the most part he stayed ahead and he mixed his — he got his breaking ball over for strikes, and when he does that he’s pretty good, and tonight he was on.”
The loss left the Nationals 8.0 back in the NL East, and just +2.0 up on the Chicago Cubs for the first Wild Card Spot, though they’re 5.5 up on the competition for the second spot. Are their backs against the wall now?
“Our backs are not against the wall,” Martinez said. “We’ve just got to keep playing baseball. I’ve said all year long we’ve just got to go 1-0 tomorrow.”