With the Washington Nationals playing out the regular season schedule against a Boston Red Sox club that is clinging to the second American League Wild Card spot going into this weekend’s series, the Nats know what is on the line in the final games on the schedule for a disappointing team that took the field for the final three games 65-94, 21.5 behind in the NL East.
It would, of course, be wrong to assume that the Nationals don’t have anything to play for, especially with a young team in the midst of reboot that has a number of players trying to establish themselves as part of the next competitive team in the nation’s capital.
“We have a lot of guys that are trying to prove themselves,” 37-year-old, 16-year veteran Ryan Zimmerman told reporters during the final road series of the season in Colorado.
Zimmerman was asked if it was difficult to get up for the final few games of a rough year that saw the Nationals struggle out of the gate and never quite get in it before a fire sale going into the trade deadline which saw GM Mike Rizzo trade away expiring contracts to bring back a number of major-league ready prospects.
“For us, I go out there, like I said, every game, and is it harder some days than others? Is it harder to get up for some games if you’re not in a playoff race? Of course,” Zimmerman said.
“I mean, I think people would lie to you if they didn’t say sometimes it’s a little bit hard. But I think once you get out there and once you get into the situations you just try to do what you can to produce, and nothing really changes, but I think we’re looking at it as a lot of these young guys have something to prove, and I think us veteran guys are here to help them and to the last game, try to make them better players.”
Plus it’s all about respecting the game, as Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said before the first of three with the Sox in D.C.
“We’re trying to win every game,” Martinez told reporters in his pregame Zoom call Friday afternoon, “starting with today, so yeah, it’s going to be a fun weekend, it’s going to be interesting to see our young players competing this weekend. So, they know what Boston is trying to do, and I’ve been on teams in the past that have been in a similar situation, so it’s going to be a fun, exciting weekend.”
And also an opportunity for those players looking to establish themselves in the majors, to test themselves against a team that’s on its way to the postseason if they can finish strong.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said.
“You’re playing against a team that’s fighting to get into a postseason. And this will be a lot of fun, we’ll see how they react to this weekend.”
Is seeing a team fighting at this point to keep playing disheartening knowing that one way or another it ends for the Nationals this weekend?
“Honestly, for me it’s just about taking care of our team and trying to compete today,” the manager said. “Obviously we had — there’s been some hardships this year, but we still got three games, and I want these guys to go out there and compete and play hard like they’ve been doing, and hopefully we come out on top today and we go 1-0 today. I’m sure that clubhouse over there, they’ve got their own feelings going on, for us, it’s just about going out there and competing today.”
Martinez reiterated, however, as he has since the deadline, that he doesn’t think it will take that long before the Nationals are back contending for a postseason berth again.
“We got some really good pieces to build around, and we still have Juan Soto, who is — for me, is probably an MVP of the league this year.
“I’m excited about the future, I’m excited about the guys we have in Instructional League right now that are banging on the doors to help us win another championship in the future.
“For me, and I said this before, I look out and I assess some of these young players that we got, some of the new young players that we’ve got, and I think we’re going to be really good, I really do, and it ain’t going to take us very long to do that. These guys, they’re learning, they’re growing, they’re maturing a lot since we got them, some of the guys feel like they’re really now starting to hone in and they feel like they belong here, which is a really good sign for us, so I’m really excited about the future of this organization and where we’re headed.”