Carter Kieboom, 24, talked after hitting a walk-off single in Monday’s series finale with the New York Mets, about the feeling of getting his first walk-off winner against a team that is fighting to stay in the division and Wild Card races, and winning a couple games after the club fought all weekend in a longer than usual five-game series.
“I mean, it’s pretty hard to describe, honestly,” the Washington Nationals’ 2016 1st Round pick told reporters. “I think to swing the bats like we did all week and then to come up short, and to finally pull one out there at the end, it’s awesome. It’s a happy flight, we’re all excited to go to Atlanta now, and keep playing, but to do it against the Mets, it’s kind of been the team I think that gave us some challenge there late in these ballgames, and to pull it out against them, we all know that they’re in a tight race to get back into the playoffs, so for us to sneak one by them it’s an awesome feeling.”
Kieboom’s teammate, 21-year-old infielder Luis García went 2 for 4 with a triple in the game on Monday, and he was 7 for 19 with four doubles, the triple in the five-game series, with 5 of 15 extra base hits on the season in those five games, providing a glimpse of what he can offer as the Nationals embark on a reboot and something of a youth movement following their fire sale at the July 30th deadline.
“He’s getting ready on time a little bit and hitting the ball out front a little better,” Martinez said when asked about García’s recent run of success at the plate. “But we knew this, I mean, he put up some good numbers in the minor leagues, and it’s just getting him constant at-bats, and getting him out there every day. I wanted to play him every day, I know I haven’t done it in the past, we know he hits righties really well, but this is an opportunity for him to play every day, left, right, it doesn’t matter, play second base, and learn, learn about the game, and we’re learning a lot about him, so he’s playing a lot better, hitting the ball better, playing defense better, so like I said, it’s good to see him going out there and competing.”
And there is, of course, value in having young players like Kieboom and García and others who make up the major league roster right now gaining this sort of experience, including the likes of Josiah Gray, 23, and Keibert Ruiz, also 23, two of four prospects acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Also, Juan Soto is just 22 until the end of October.
“Yeah, we want to see these guys play and give them an opportunity to play every day, and every day I see them getting a little better, a little bit more confidence,” Martinez explained, “... and like I said, good group of guys, love them, they play hard, and we’re having a lot of fun, even though our record doesn’t indicate it, but these guys come out and they’re ready to play every day and they’re having fun, they communicate with one another every day, and you see the dugout, when things happen, they’re all right there cheering for each other, so it’s been fun.”
While the Nationals are out of it this season, they’re playing teams that are still in the fight, as mentioned, which will hopefully help them to be more comfortable in high-intensity type situations as they try to turn things around and start contending again in the next few years.
“It’s awesome to watch these guys compete against teams that actually have an opportunity to play in the playoffs, and are trying to fight to get in the playoffs” Martinez said before Tuesday’s series opener with the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, “and these guys, for the most part we’ve been in every game, and they’ve held their own. And they’re showing me signs of, hey, that they can play at this level, especially in high-leverage situations, which is great.
“We’re going to continue to grind every day. Get these guys better, and like I said, hopefully this winter, we’ll have a good idea of what we have, and what I’m seeing from some of our young guys is they have the ability to help us win games here in the future, and hopefully real soon.”