Victor Robles owned it. He made a mistake when he tried to steal second base in the eighth inning of Friday’s series opener in LA. Robles, 23, bunted his way on (after Yadiel Hernández hit a pinch hit double), advancing the runner in a 1-0 game, then beating it out, to set up the Washington Nationals’ 2-3-4 hitters with multiple opportunities to tie the game.
Then he tried to steal second with Trea Turner up and got tagged. Turner K’d for the second out, and after an intentional walk to Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a force that ended the threat and let reliever Blake Treinen off the hook in what ended up a 1-0 loss.
“You know, it’s one of those things that I looked at the situation and I thought as a team we would better off if we had runners on second and third with nobody out as opposed to first and third,” Robles explained through interpreter Octavio Martinez after the game.
“But it was completely my mistake,” he added, owning the decision, “... that I didn’t think about looking at who was coming up in the lineup which is our strong part of the lineup, and giving them the best opportunity to produce.
“That’s part of me being an aggressive player and having to learn and look at that stuff, but that was completely my fault with not looking over and seeing who was coming up behind me, which was our strong part of the lineup.”
“He ran on his own,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez confirmed in his own post game call with reporters.
“Not a very good play in that situation. We got 2-3-4 up, no outs. We talked to him about the times with Treinen. Treinen is pretty quick to home. He should have just stayed put.”
“Once again, you know, for me, that’s just a young baseball player trying to be overly aggressive, but he’s got to be smarter than that. And that’s something that we’ve got to teach him along the way, especially when he’s leading off and he’s got all those hitters behind him.”
Martinez said it was a teachable moment that he would discuss with his young outfielder to see what Robles was thinking and explain why it wasn’t the right decision at that time.
“I’ll sit with him tomorrow and explain the situation, and I want to get his thoughts on what he was thinking first,” the fourth-year skipper said, “before I give him mine, and then we’ll talk about it, and hopefully he understands. We want him to be aggressive, but we want him to be aggressive smart. And at that particular moment, we’re down 1-0 with some pretty big hitters coming up with no outs, so regardless of what it is — you wait for a passed ball or wild pitch, and then there’s other ways to get on second.
“We wanted Trea to hit, we wanted Juan to hit, and wanted Zim to hit.”
Robles knew it, before he sat down with his manager to go over it and see what lessons he could take.
“I made a mistake,” Robles reiterated. “I was being too aggressive in that moment, but at the same time I don’t want to take away from my aggressive play. That’s how I play, but I just got to be a little smarter in when I select to do [that] and try to make those steal attempts, and know more about the situation.”
“But I still want to be the same player and stay with my aggressive play,” he added.
If you find yourself, at this point, wondering why Martinez didn’t simply put up a hold sign on and tell Robles not to run in that situation, he hears you, man, but he didn’t want to do that.
“It’s kind of called tough love,” he explained before last night’s game. “I made mistakes as a young player, and I had good conversations with managers to try to teach me. For me, you don’t want to take the aggressiveness away from Victor.
“You want him to understand the game and situations. That’s something that we talked about, him and I.
“I never — everybody says, ‘Oh, you could give him the hold.’ I don’t want to do that, because all of sudden he gets over there and the first thing he thinks of is that, he doesn’t want to go, and you don’t want to do that to a young player, you really don’t. So you got to get him to understand, yeah there’s time where we do do that, that situation right there, he’s got to understand that we got big guys up hitting behind him, we’re down a run, let them swing the bats. I talked to him. I said, ‘Look, in a situation like that, you have to be 1000% sure that you’re going to make it, and go from there.’ He understood. I talked to him and said he did a great job talking to the media yesterday, because it’s tough, and he did a wonderful job, and it’s going to be a learning process, but once again, I’m not going to take the aggressiveness away from him. And he’s going to steal a lot of bases for us, he’s going to do some unbelievable things for us, I know that, so for me to all of a sudden every time he gets on, put a hold sign on him, it doesn’t really help him.”