DO TEAM MEETINGS WORK?:
Following the Nationals’ fourth straight loss and seventh in their last ten, Washington’s skipper decided he needed to talk to his team, as a group, to assure them that he still believed things would turn around after a tough six weeks and 13-19 start to the 2021 campaign.
“I saw a few players with their heads down,” Davey Martinez explained of the scene in the clubhouse in Nationals Park following Wednesday night’s deflating loss.
“And that’s what really prompted me to have a conversation with the team yesterday. I don’t want that.
“Because these guys, they’re giving it their all, some of them are trying to give more than what they should.
“I just want these guys to relax and go out there and have fun. We got a good team. All the way around. And I talked about it yesterday, look, our pitching has come around, they’ve been pitching well.
“They’re keeping us in the ballgame. Our bullpen has been doing unbelievable. We just got to get those bats going and get those timely hits. I looked back and yesterday [Yadiel Hernández] came out as a pinch hitter, two-strike approach, and hit a bullet to the third baseman, which two feet either way could have been another run for us. That’s the way things are going for us. That’s the way things are going right now, but it will change. I told them yesterday, hey, it’s going to change. They’re not going to catch them all. So just keep swinging the bats, having good at bats, with two strikes let’s just focus on putting the ball in play, and then we’ll go from there.”
It was a quick turnaround with a 1:05 PM start to the series finale with the Phillies in D.C, but Martinez said before the game his team looked ready.
“We got another game today, let’s go 1-0 today. You got to put these games behind you. As tough as they are we’ve got to focus on winning today’s game.”
Is there a danger in leaning on the “Go 1-0 today” and “Stay in the Fight” talk with a different team and different season and circumstances than in 2019, when Martinez’s phrases helped to spark the Nationals’ miraculous-ish run?
“For me, I sat back last night for a while there, and I thought about the Milwaukee series in ‘19 where we were in all those games and at the end of the games we happened to give up some runs,” Martinez explained, recalling a three-game stretch in early May of that season, before the club hit 19-31 and turned things around, “and I said, I think to myself, I wish this wasn’t happening again, but it’s upon us and we got to get through it and we will get through it. For the guys, like I said, I don’t want those guys to think they got to — not one guy is going to carry us through this, just everybody do their part. And that’s — my message yesterday was, ‘Forget about everything that’s happened up to this point. Come out today and try to go 1-0 today. You can’t do nothing about the past, but just remember that we’re never out of it. You guys have shown that, you guys are relentless. You guys till the last out of the game you play hard. And things will turn around. Things will definitely turn around, so keep fighting, keep pushing,’ and I told them, ‘Let’s go 1-0 tomorrow.’”
The Nationals did, snapping their four-game slide and avoiding a sweep with a 5-1 win in the finale with the Phillies.
Back Of A Napkin, Maybe? Late Night Journaling In Bed?:
Davey Martinez has talked before about the sleepless nights he sometimes spends trying to come up with lineup configurations that might spark his club, and before Wednesday’s win over the Phillies, 5-1 final, he was asked about his process after he switched things up a bit after the club’s fourth straight loss.
“I often sit down before each series to try to figure stuff out and have a pretty good idea of what I want to do,” he explained. “Like I said, yesterday I started [Andrew] Stevenson in center field and wanted him to lead off, and it worked out. He got on base for us. So, you know, I try to match up guys where I feel like in the lineup that can possibly get on and create length in our lineup, that’s what it’s all about. And it’s try to score — I said this all along, when we score first, we’re pretty good. We’ve got to start doing that. We haven’t done it in a while.
“So, we got to put on some runs early on the board, and get our pitchers to relax a little bit.
“When you go out there as a pitcher and you’re not getting any run-support, you’re starting to think that you’ve got to make perfect pitches. And the same thing goes for the guys in the bullpen, when the game is constantly tied and you’re behind one or you’re up one, these guys sometimes tend to want to make that perfect pitch, but if you got a little leeway, we’re up two or three runs, things are a little different, you think a little bit differently.”
Martinez’s club jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first on Thursday, and then added a run in the sixth. It was a good way to end a homestand before a flight to Arizona.
“It’s only one game,” Martinez said after the win, “but hopefully we do it tomorrow. I mean that’s the gist of it. Put the pressure on the other team when you come out and score first like that.
“Like I said, it was a good day for the Nats, let’s go enjoy our flight and come back and do it again tomorrow.”
Next Step For Stras:
Stephen Strasburg got four ups and threw 62 pitches in a sim game this week, so the next step or two should have him back in the major league rotation, barring any setbacks or hiccups in the rehab process after he landed on the 10-Day Injured List with right shoulder inflammation on April 18th (retroactive to the 15th).
The next step or test?
“He’s going to go throw a bullpen and then we’ll decide after the game what we’re going to do with him,” Martinez said.
The club wants to get at least one more outing in before the 32-year-old is activated, it’s just a question of what form that will take.
“I want him to go down and get a start,” Martinez said, which would have to be with Triple-A Rochester, since that is all that’s allowed under 2021 COVID protocols, as opposed to a start with a closer affiliate.
“When he comes back I want him to at least get through six innings before we make a decision what he wants to do,” Martinez continued.
“So like I said, he’ll throw a bullpen today and then we’ll talk to him after and see how he’s feeling.”
Whether it’s a rehab start in the minors, or a sim game, there’s still another step before he returns.
“Right. Right. Absolutely,” Martinez said.
“We won’t activate him until he gets through another round, whether he’s going to go to the minor leagues or a sim game, and then we’ll go from there.”