All-Star Break Perfectly Timed:
Joe Ross is the latest National to get bit by the injury rat, and with all the injuries the club is dealing with right now, Washington’s skipper, Davey Martinez, told reporters last night that the All-Star break can’t come soon enough (though they still have three to play on the road in San Francisco before most of the team will get some time off next week).
“I think the All-Star Break is definitely coming at a good time,” Martinez said on his pregame Zoom call from Petco Park. “Like I said, we’ve got to finish out these four days. Like I said, San Diego is a good team we got into San Francisco and they’re playing well, we’ve just got to finish well and get some time off. It couldn’t come at a better time for us right now ... but regardless, we still got to play, the guys are playing well, we’ve got to keep playing hard.”
Ross, 28, landed on the 10-Day IL with right elbow inflammation, so the Nationals are going to have to mix things up a bit going into the three-game, first-half ending matchup with the Giants.
“No, we know that [Paolo] Espino will start tomorrow. We’ll TBA on Saturday. Sunday it will be [Erick] Fedde,” Martinez outlined, and Saturday is just TBA for now, with Jon Lester the likely pick though the Nats’ skipper didn’t want to commit before talking to the veteran left-hander.
“He’s throwing a bullpen right now,” Martinez said when he spoke at 6:30 PM ET Thursday night. “And he actually was going to pitch on Sunday, and because of Joe we might pitch him on Saturday, but he’s throwing a bullpen right now, and I don’t want to speculate on anything until after his bullpen session.”
Starlin Castro started the series finale in Petco Park with a 10-game hit streak going, over which he was 15 for 35 (.429 AVG) with three doubles, one home run, 10 RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored, with multi-hit games in five of the 10 games, and as MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted, after Castro extended the streak with a double off Yu Darvish the first time up on Thursday, he’d been on a run for a little bit longer:
Starlin Castro now batting .394 with 8 doubles over his last 18+ games. And an 11-game hitting streak now.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) July 9, 2021
Martinez talked before the game about Castro’s approach during this stretch, and what, if anything, he’d changed that led to the surge, during which, a reporter noted (and we did not check their math) only four of his 15 hits on the hit streak were to the pull side, or put the other way, 11 were opposite field hits.
“He’s staying behind the ball a lot better, and also the way that they’re pitching him,” has accounted for those results, Martinez said.
“When they’re throwing him in, they’re really throwing the ball inside for effect, and most of the time for balls. As they throw the ball away, they’re pumping strikes away, so he’s really staying on the ball and hitting the ball the other way. The other thing we talked about with him is producing runs, because he is hitting in the middle of the lineup. If you watch a lot of guys that drive in runs, a lot of runs, they’re able to hit the ball — stay inside the ball and drive the ball the other way to pick up a cheap RBI here and there, so he’s been working a lot with [Hitting Coach Kevin Long] on just driving in runs and being a better run producer.”
If pitchers are throwing him strikes outside and he’s hitting what’s thrown to him and going the other way, that’s eventually going to change, right? Will that then lead to more pull hits and, potentially, power (though he had, after the two-base hit on Thursday, hit four doubles and a home run — his 3rd this season — on the hit streak)?
“There’s no doubt,” that pitchers will change their approach, Martinez said, “but he’s got to show teams that he can hit the ball and drive the ball the other way, which he’s been doing, and it will come in a period where he’ll have to make another adjustment if they start throwing the balls inside for strikes.”
The fourth-year skipper also noted that Castro has been hitting fastballs a lot during his hit streak.
“His timing is really good, he’s getting ready a lot earlier, and then he’s staying behind the ball really good right now. So, when he’s able to hit the ball to all fields the way he’s doing right now, I said this before about him, the hits will come and he’s doing a great job right now.”
Hair on Fire In Minors Update:
One little leftover note: Andrew Stevenson (oblique tweak) got the night off on Thursday, after playing three games this week on a rehab assignment, going 4 for 9 with two walks and two Ks in those games with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
So, is he coming back to the big leagues any time soon?
“He’s still on rehab,” Martinez said. “He’s doing well. He feels good. Like I said, he’s going to continue to play some games down there, play some center field, left field, right field, and I know he DH’d the other day, so we’ll see how that all works out.
“We might get him back before the All-Star break or wait till after the All-Star break.”