Following Tuesday night’s loss to the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field, Washington’s Nationals had a combined .252/.329/.395 line on the year, good for 3rd(tied)/8th/14th amongst MLB’s 30 teams, but after going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position, their .220/.329/.328 line with RISP, had them 26th/19th/27th across the line in the big leagues.
“I think we’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive, I really do,” manager Davey Martinez said when asked about team’s ongoing struggles with runners in scoring position this season.
“And in the strike zone, early in counts, I’m seeing a lot of two-strike hitting with men on base,” the fourth-year skipper added.
“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.”
“I think we’ve been [leaving] a lot of guys on base, but I think we hit the ball hard,” Starlin Castro said after homering to snap an 0 for 20 streak at the plate on a 1 for 5 night on the North Side of Chicago on Tuesday.
“We just don’t have [much] luck. I think we hit a lot of balls that can be base hits, but you know what I mean, that’s something that we can’t control, just try grind it out, try to keep having good at bats, and we go back and try.”
The Nats’ skipper was asked if the message he keeps preaching isn’t getting through to his hitters, who’ve continued to struggle with runners in scoring position this season, or if it is another process/results kind of thing.
“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.”
Is there a fine line between being aggressive and over-zealous when you’re talking about swinging early in counts with runners on?
“Like I said, this is something we talk about, we have a game plan for certain guys,” Martinez explained. “For me, and something that I’ve learned throughout my whole career, when you’ve got runners in scoring position you want to be the guy to drive them in, and not wait for the next guy to drive them in. But you want to be aggressive in the strike zone early. Pitchers are taught to get ahead, they want to get ahead in those situations, they don’t want to fall behind, so as a hitter you’re looking for the ball in the strike zone and try to get a ball up that you can drive.”
In trying to be the guy to get that big hit as he suggested, will the hitters press and possibly be too aggressive trying to make something happen?
“No, I see these guys, these guys — we talk about it all the time — they’re playing hard,” he said.
“They’re working good at bats, but like I said, with guys on base — and you see it quite often, these guys come up there and they’re ready.
“A couple guys got hits on the first pitch, and drove the ball, hit some line drives ... but like I’ve said often enough, you can’t be too fine.
“You can’t look for the ball right down the middle.
“You got to get up there and try to get a ball you feel like you can hit, especially early in the count, because those to me usually are going to be the balls that you can hit.
“After that, when you get one or two strikes on you, there’s multiple that you’ve got to start looking for, so then you get defensive and you want to put the ball in play.”
Before the third of three in Wrigley on Wednesday night, Martinez said he’s looked at all the numbers too, and knows that while his club is hitting, they’re just not driving in runs, which, obviously is the ultimate goal.
“I looked at all the numbers, and I see that we’re leading the league in batting average, but the big thing is driving in runs.
“At the end of the day it’s having one more run than the other team.
“But we just got to keep — I don’t want to put so much stuff in our guys’ heads, because the at bats have been good and we are hitting the ball hard, we’ve got to continue to do that.
“And these hits will fall, they’ll start falling, and that’s a message that I make clear with these guys: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll start getting quality hits when we need them and we’ll start scoring some runs.’
“Everything else we’re playing well, and our starting pitching is doing well.”
“We’ve just got to keep going every day. And it’s a grind. It’s a grind. That’s why I say it takes more than 26 guys to win every day and to pull this off to get to where we want to be and that’s another playoff run. But we’ve got to keep pushing. Yesterday happened, it’s over, we’ve got to get ready for today’s game.”
Martinez’s club went 3 for 10 with runners in scoring position and eight left on base in the 4-3 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night.