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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Max Scherzer, Juan Soto vs LHPs; + Kyle Schwarber leading off...

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Highlights from Davey Martinez’s daily media availability...

Scherzer Won’t Make Wednesday Start:

Davey Martinez sat down with reporters for his daily pregame Zoom call just as Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer went out to the bullpen in Nationals Park to test his injured groin after tweaking it 12 pitches into last Friday night’s start against the San Francisco Giants in the nation’s capital.

A reporter wondered why the Nats’ skipper wasn’t out there watching his ace test the groin.

“Because I’m coming to talk to you so that I can go out there,” Martinez joked. He did note that the fact that Scherzer was able to head out and test it was a good sign that the injury, as they’d suggested last weekend, wasn’t a serious one.

“Yeah, we’ll see how he gets through it,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing, as I always say, is after the fact. He got warmed up, he had treatment, they got him ready, he’s going to go out there and see how well he throws. And then it will probably take him a while, and we’ll see how he feels probably tomorrow.

MLB: Game Two-San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

“The good news is that he feels good enough to actually throw a bullpen. So we’ll see how it goes.”

While happy to see Scherzer progress enough to throw, Martinez said he wasn’t sure if the 36-year-old starter going on Wednesday was a good idea.

“I’m at the crossroads right now with this, because it is concerning that he did feel that, and we don’t want it to get any worse,” he explained.

“So, like I said, based on the trainers and our medical staff they feel like he can go out there and try to throw a bullpen and then we’ll take it from there.”

Scherzer tested the groin briefly, but when he spoke with reporters after the session, he said it was a no-go for Wednesday.

“After about 10 pitches, you just knew it’s not going to get better,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“It’s not going to loosen up. I was able to run, do everything else. It’s just throwing a baseball and how I use my legs. The groin is critical to how I do that. It’s just not allowing me to fully get through the baseball yet.”

“This is just something you can’t pitch through,” he said. “I’ve pitched through a lot of other things, found a way to do a lot of other stuff. But this one you just can’t get around.”

Martinez said after last night’s game that the club would wait before making a final decision on how to handle Scherzer.

“We’re going to wait till tomorrow and I’ll have another conversation with him and then we’ll go from there. If we have to IL him, we can backdate it a little bit,” Martinez said.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. I know he probably can’t start on Wednesday, but if he feels better tomorrow, who knows what we can do then.”

So, they could potentially just bump Scherzer back and avoid an IL stint?

“Exactly. So I’ll see how he’s feeling tomorrow,” Martinez said.

“If there’s any hesitation and he hees and haws, he’s not going to pitch. I mean, plain and simple.”

Kyle Schwarber, Leadoff Man:

Kyle Schwarber homered twice in the Nationals’ first at bat of two games with the Giants over the weekend, so his manager penciled him in as the leadoff man again for the series opener with the Pittsburgh Pirates last night (he did not homer the first time up, but ended up hitting a go-ahead home run in the 7th).

Martinez talked before the first of three with the Bucs in D.C. about why he likes the slugger in that spot.

“He got us off to a fast start, so let’s see if he can do it again today,” Martinez said. “Like I said before, he’s done it before, he understands the role, also too, as I said yesterday, he’ll take his walks, and get on base, and when you’ve got Trea [Turner] and [Juan] Soto hitting behind you and [Josh] Bell, that’s a good thing.”

As he noted, Schwarber did lead off at times when he and Martinez were with the Chicago Cubs, so it’s nothing new, though the outfielder did note after Sunday’s game that he stunk as a leadoff man when he first tried it.

“I stunk the first time I led off, I was terrible. I mean, I’ll be really honest, I stunk,” Schwarber said.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“Because I think I started leading off in ‘17, and that was the year I actually got sent down, and it was a — I was — my swing wasn’t where it needed to be first-off, but just trying to learn the leadoff spot I would say, then I started doing it again in ‘19 and it kind of came around better, and then I was out of it again, and coming here and being thrown in the leadoff spot, it’s just like, ‘Eh, whatever, take that leadoff name out of it, and you’re batting in the first spot, and then next time you come around you could be batting third.’ It’s not like I haven’t led off an inning before.”

What prompted Martinez’s decision to try Schwarber atop the order again when he first did decide to try it?

“I just wanted to get him up there and hopefully get some more fastballs,” he said, “and get the pitchers knowing that he’s leading off, they’ll attack the strike zone, and get the ball in the strike zone for him. He never was a big chaser, I noticed that he started chasing a little bit, so now we’re just trying to get him back in the zone and so far he’s done well up there, so we’ll keep him up there for a while and get him going.”

Has he seen opposing pitchers approaching Schwarber differently in that spot, whether in the first at bats, or just because he’s hitting in front of Turner and Soto?

“He has gotten a few more fastballs than normal,” Martinez said. “They’ve been throwing a lot of breaking balls, a lot of changeups. Now he’s getting fastballs, with two strikes he’s getting elevated fastballs. We’re explaining to him that he’s got to get the ball down. He’s really good when the ball is down in the zone, even though yesterday he hit a ball almost over his head for a home run, but he’s really good when he’s down.”

Schwarber hit a second home run on Sunday too, yes, which was apparently, “tied for the [second]-highest pitch hit for a HR this season with Shohei Ohtani,” according to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs. Schwarber laughed at it afterwards.

“Yeah, yeah, I was able to look at it on the iPad when I came back, and it was a little high. It was definitely a little high,” he said.

“It’s one of those when you fire at it, you’re like, ‘Oh no,’ and then it hits your bat and you’re like, ‘Oh, yes.’ You know what I mean, and it was just one of those things.”

Quick Soto Note:

Davey Martinez talked after the series finale with San Francisco in D.C. on Sunday about the need to get Trea Turner and Juan Soto going at the plate.

Turner went 3 for 15 in the four-game set with the NL West’s first-place team. Soto was 1 for 11 with two walks in the series.

We looked at Soto’s numbers just to see what was going on and noticed that the numbers against lefties, in particular, are kind of rough this season.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Going into play on Monday, Soto had a .282/.371/.520 line vs LHPs in his career, vs his solid .296/.432/.550 line vs RHPs, but in two-plus months this season, the left-handed swinging slugger had a .213/.342/.492 line vs lefties (along with a .296/.431/.409 vs RHPs), though he had hit five of his eight home runs this season off of left-handers. So, we asked Martinez in advance of the series opener against the Pirates, what’s going on with Soto against lefties?

“It’s about — for me it’s about getting him to stay on the ball a little bit better. He’s pulling off a lot, that’s why you’re seeing a lot of ground balls, especially to second base. We got to get him to stay on the ball and drive the ball to left-center field. If you notice a lot of his homers have been to center field, left-center field, against these left-handed pitchers, that’s when he’s really good. So we’ve got to get him to stay on the ball a little longer, and you’ll start seeing him drive the ball and his average go up against lefties. I mean, he’s not utilizing left field like he normally does, and especially with two strikes. With two strikes, he’s not afraid to get jammed, he stays on the ball. I can remember him hitting a lot of line drives right down the third base line, just because he lets the ball travel a little bit longer. We got to get him to stay on the ball and start hitting the ball to left-center field.”