Davey Martinez had a message for Luis García after the 20-year-old infielder hit his first big league home run in his third game after the Washington Nationals called him up for his big league debut in mid-August.
“I told him, I said, ‘Hey, don’t let it go to your head,’” Martinez told reporters. “‘Remember who you are, stay in the middle of the field, and ... he came up and he hit a line drive to third base. That tells me a lot about him. He’s going to have a lot of success in this league.”
García has been relatively successful early in his time with the Nats. Going into the second game of two with the Rays in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, the second baseman was 23 for 87 (.264/.289/.345) with four doubles, the one home run, three walks, and 18 Ks over 90 plate appearances in his first month plus in the majors, coming off back-to-back multi-hit games.
He was 0 for 3 with two Ks in the first nine innings of the matchup with the current AL East division leaders, but he got an additional at bat in the top of the tenth when it went to extra innings, and Garcia made the most of it, sending a first-pitch fastball from Rays’ righty Nick Anderson 427 ft to right field for a two-run blast (with a runner on second to start the 10th inning) that ended up being the decisive blow in a 4-2 win.
“It’s awesome,” Martinez said afterwards of seeing his rookie infielder come up with the big hit.
“What a great kid, man,” the manager added. “I tell you right now, and I’ve said this before, he has no fear. He’s going to give you everything he’s got, he goes out there and he plays the game and has fun playing the game.
“Testament right there, he ain’t thinking of anything, you kind of try to guide him on what to expect and what to do and he goes out there and does his best.”
Martinez, who had no intention of bunting on the road in extras, told García to expect a get-me-over fastball.
“Right before the at bat I went to him and he told me generally this is a situation to bunt the runner over, but I have confidence in you and in your swing,’” García recalled the manager telling him, “‘... so he’s going to come right at you with a get-me-over type of fastball, so just be ready for it.’”
“I just told him, I said, ‘Get ready for the fastball.’ I don’t know if they thought we were going to try to bunt in that situation, but I told him, ‘Be ready to hit that first-pitch fastball, and get on it,” Martinez said.
“We’re not going to bunt, we want to score as many runs as possible He put a good swing on it and obviously he hit the home run.”
Coming as it did after Nationals’ closer Daniel Hudson blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth, García’s blast was big for his team, and reliever Kyle McGowin threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the tenth to close out the win, striking out the side.
“It was a big pick-me-up for us,” Martinez told reporters. “We got our closer in, things didn’t work out, but for us to come back and do what we did — credit to McGowin too, coming in there and getting a big save for us right there, huge.”
Seeing García’s power on display the skipper said, provided a glimpse of the future for the infielder and the team.
“It’s great. I’ve always said I’m really excited about the future here with some of these guys, and Luis is one of them.
“This kid, he’s getting better, he’s going to get better. He’s going to understand a lot about this game and what they’re trying to do — as a hitter, how they’re trying to get him out.
“It’s a learning process for him. He’s very aggressive as a hitter. We talk a lot about staying in the strike zone. He likes to go up there and just start swinging, but he’s getting better at understanding what his strike zone is, and what ball he hits hard, but he’s going to learn that, he’s got to learn that. Once he starts learning how to really get into his legs and use his legs, he’s got the potential to hit 15-20 home runs regularly. He’s a strong kid, but that’s something that he’s going to learn, I know he’s going to learn. He’s got unbelievably quick hands. When he starts using his legs more consistently, you’ll see more power. Right now, I tell him right now, I want you to just focus on hitting the ball in the middle of the field.
“That’s who you are, you’re a doubles guy, and if you happen to get a hold of one, you’re going to hit it far, and that’s what he did today.”
The fact that García was able to stay calm in that situation, know what was coming and turn it around was impressive, and as his manager said, he isn’t showing any fear or letting a big moment affect him, which is something García said his father instilled in him early in his life.
“It’s the same game growing up since I was five years old that I played,” García explained.
“One thing my dad and I would talk about is that it always seemed that the players seemed very afraid a little bit, like the game got too big for them when they first got to the big leagues, and we would talk about the fact that it was weird, I guess, to say it that way. That’s where you want to be and yet at the same time you’re a little bit afraid of that moment, and it shouldn’t be that way, and he’s given me so much confidence and just comfort talking to him about it before I even got here that it’s helped me be a lot more relaxed.”