A loss in the series finale with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday left the Washington Nationals 3-4 on their road trip to Arizona and Illinois, but now they’re back in the nation’s capital for nine games. Up first is three with the Baltimore Orioles, starting with tonight’s 7:05 PM ET matchup, which features the return of Stephen Strasburg after over a month on the Injured List for the 32-year-old right-hander.
Davey Martinez’s club is now 8-13 on the road this season, and they start the homestand 9-10 thus far in 2021. Will a nice stretch of games at home spur the long hoped-for surge that hasn’t yet materialized?
Martinez has been saying for a while now he thinks the team is close to turning a corner, but it didn’t happen on the just-completed road trip.
“I really thought we were going to break through,” he said after the loss in the finale with the Cubs in Wrigley Field. “We started the road trip off with a bang and but like I said, we’ve run into some tough luck, we really have. We’ve had some days where we hit the ball really hard and had nothing to show for it. I mean there’s all these at bats that stick out in my head.”
“There’s tons of them. I’ve just got to praise the boys, and tell them to keep going. They’ll fall, they’ll find holes, just keep swinging the bats.”
What can a manager, or hitter/pitcher do to counter bad luck?
“Just hope that they fall, find some grass, or get over the fence,” Martinez said.
“I’ve seen some good at bats throughout the course of the week, so hopefully we’re getting there and now we just need some of these hard-hit balls to fall.”
Starlin Castro seemed to have the worst luck of any of the Nationals during the road trip, with a number of well-struck balls that didn’t fall in for hits, and Josh Bell, who had hits in five of the last six games he played in, going 7 for 22 (.318/.400/.500) with a double, HR, three walks and three Ks in 25 plate appearances, and is starting to show signs of life, said after Thursday’s game that he and the rest of his teammates are putting in the work to get things turned around.
“I think it’s part of the game,” Bell said of the bad luck they’ve experienced as a group.
“I know that [Hitting Coach Kevin Long] is on us when there are mechanical things that we need to work on, but for guys lining out, I think you look at Castro’s last freaking 25 at bats, you’re like, ‘Good lord. Dude can’t get any worse luck.’
“Especially considering some of the hits that people have gotten in the last few series.”
“Sometimes it’s mechanical and sometimes it’s just the game being the game,” Bell said.
“It’s a tough game, it’s not always easy to get hits, but I know when that top-half of the lineup is performing the way that we can, we’re going to put a lot of runs on the board.”
With the Orioles’ 4.71 ERA as a team, which is the sixth-highest in the majors, will they be the club whose pitching helps get the Nationals’ offense firing on all cylinders?