[ed. note - “We’re not ignoring the news of a positive COVID test for one Nationals’ player here, but we wrote this well in advance of this afternoon’s announcement. You can read about the positive test and player identified through contact tracing HERE. Lineups and some thoughts below...”]
Davey Martinez liked the matchup with Ryan Zimmerman against Cubs’ righty Zach Davies last night, so he gave the veteran first baseman a start, with Josh Bell sitting out of the 2nd game of the four-game series in Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
“[Davies has] a really good changeup,” Martinez explained. “He’s been tougher on lefties. So I wanted to get Zim in there, we’ve got four days here, so get him in there, and the next two guys, Bell matches up good with them, so he’ll play the next two days.”
Right-handed hitters have a .352/.422/.484 line against Davies (.239/.368/.394 vs LHBs) so far in 2021, so going with Zimmerman made sense, and he went 2 for 4 with a walk in their 6-3 loss. So, good decision, Davey.
Martinez also talked about Bell’s swing from each side of the plate, as he’s struggled out of the game from both sides in his first season with the Nationals. What’s been going wrong?
After singling off right-handed reliever Dan Winkler in a pinch hit appearance, Bell now has a .203/.241/.405 line against righties this season, and a .095/.259/.143 line against lefties.
“He’s just got to get ready earlier,” Martinez said.
“It’s all about timing. And most of his at bats do come from the left side, so he gets more at bats from the left side to be able to get his timing quicker, but he’s just got to get his timing a little bit better.”
The Nationals, as a team, went just 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position last night, with 11 left on base in the three-run loss.
On the year, the club now has a .220/.329/.328 line with runners in scoring position, which has them 26th/19th/27th across the line among MLB’s 30 teams.
“It’s just one of those days again,” Martinez said after the second straight loss to the Cubs and the seventh loss in the last 10 games.
“Just not having that one big hit, driving in that one key run.”
“We’ve got to keep our heads up, we’ve got to stay positive, and we’ve got to come back tomorrow,” he added.
“I think we’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive, I really do,” he said of the approach in at bats with runners in scoring position.
“And in the strike zone, early in counts, I’m seeing a lot of two-strike hitting with men on base.
“Like I’ve said, the first two pitches are probably the best two pitches you’re going to get. I want us to be a little more aggressive with guys on base and get the ball up where you can drive the ball.”
Martinez has been preaching that same message throughout the first two months (and in all four of his seasons in D.C., honestly). Is it not getting through?
“It’s been talked about, they understand it, like I said you know, but there’s been occasions where we did really did hit the ball hard and have nothing to show for it as well, that’s part of it, but we got to be conscious of it, we’ve got to get better at it. Like I said, 11 [runners], we had opportunities today, we just didn’t capitalize.”
Will they create the opportunities and capitalize on them tonight?