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Washington Nationals news & notes: Home-half of 2022 schedule done; Davey Martinez on team identity + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability over the weekend...

Home Schedule Wrapped:

With a loss in the rain-soaked series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, manager Davey Martinez’s Washington Nationals finished the final homestand of 2022 at 26-55 in the nation’s capital this year.

The club which finished the home schedule yesterday was significantly different than the team which started the season, with the organization in the second year of the reboot they kicked off in July of 2021, with another trade deadline drastically altering the face of the franchise (so long, Juan Soto), and their fifth-year skipper said after the 8-1 loss to their NL East rivals, the current team’s a hard working young club which has given him everything they have and learned a lot, while also losing the most games (104 so far) by any team since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.

But he likes their fight, and the effort.

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“For me it’s, one, we’re definitely younger, but two, I know [a reporter] asked me yesterday about the identity of this club,” Martinez said, “this team comes to compete every day, you know. Regardless of whether we win or lose. They’re going to play hard, and they’re going to play hard for 27 outs. And I love that about them, and they’re going to get better, and all of a sudden you go from competing to actually starting to win some of these games at the end, which I know will happen, will happen soon with this group, because they’re fiery, like I said.

“They don’t quit, they’ve got a lot of energy, and I had a lot of fun with them, and they learned a lot about themselves this year.”

“But I’m looking forward to Spring Training next year,” Martinez added, “and getting a lot of these guys back, and getting some of the younger guys that we have in camp, and getting to watch them and develop them.”

Lesson Learned?:

Before CJ Abrams hit his first career walk-off winner against the Atlanta Braves last week, he had a regrettable moment in the matchup in the nation’s capital.

In the bottom of the eighth inning this past Wednesday, Abrams sent a weak grounder back to the mound, where left-handed reliever AJ Minter fielded it, and Washington’s 21-year-old shortstop didn’t exactly hustle to first base, only to have Minter throw the ball high, pulling Braves’ first baseman Matt Olson off of the first base bag.

Abrams took a few quick steps as Olson recovered and lunged for the first base bag with his glove, beating the runner (upon review) to the bag.

Davey Martinez, the Nationals’ fifth-year manager wasn’t happy with his charge, and the first- year infielder was frustrated with himself for the momentary lapse in judgement.

“I can tell you right now he was frustrated. He got a little bit of my not-so-good side, so it won’t happen again,” Martinez told reporters after Abrams’ walk-off winner.

Abrams stayed focused on the task at hand, and in extra innings, he won the game for the Nationals, but he was clear afterwards the message from his manager about always giving everything he has got across.

“That can’t happen,” Abrams said of not running to first, in his own post game scrum with reporters. “I talked to Davey about it. Won’t happen again for sure.”

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Saying the right thing is one thing, proving you understand the lesson is another.

In Saturday’s 13-4 win over Philadelphia, Abrams kept the second alive with a two-out infield single on a grounder to second, hustling down the line to beat a throw from Jean Segura on a slow roller.

Abrams’ hit loaded the bases, before Joey Meneses cleared them with a three-run double, then Luke Voit hit a 2-run home run which put the home team up 6-1 in what ended up a 13-4 win.

Abrams hit one back to the mound and off of Philly reliever Chris Devenski late in the game too, and it ricocheted over to Segura, delaying it just enough for the speedy Nats’ infielder to beat the throw to first.

Three batters later, Luis García hit a three-run home run which put Washington up by nine runs.

“For me, that was a game-changer, it really was,” Martinez said of the second-inning hit.

“He gets that base hit right there, an infield hit, we come up and we score three runs right there.

“I tell him, ‘Those little things like that is what changes the game, and it was awesome.’

“And it was awesome. So continue to do that. That’s how we play the game. That’s how we’re going to play the game. Play hard.”

Luis García Goes And Gets One:

Davey Martinez, who’s noted Luis García’s ability to barrel them up, has also noted the 22-year-old’s tendency to chase pitches out of the zone, joking early in his big league career during 2020’s 60-game season how García, “... goes up there and he’s swinging from the on-deck circle sometimes.”

“So we’re trying to get him to just get better pitches to hit, because he’s got really good bat-to-ball skills,” Martinez said.

Following García’s three-hit game on Saturday, which saw him single twice and then hit his seventh home run in 89 games and 363 plate appearances since he was called back up to the majors from Triple-A in early June.

“I’ve always said when he can get the ball up in the strike zone he puts good swings on the baseball, and he did that today,” Martinez told reporters, following the club’s 13-4 win over the Phillies.

“For him it’s all about consistency, you know, looking for the ball up and not chasing.

“The rest of this year and come next year, his big thing is not to chase. We got to get him in the zone.”

Of course, a reporter noted, García’s second hit, an RBI single in the seventh inning, came on a two-strike changeup, out of the zone and outside which the infielder served into left for an opposite field hit, and the home run in the eighth came on a two-strike fastball above the zone and inside which García hit 404 feet to right field.

Screencaps via’s Gameday

“With two strikes, he’s going to go up there and he’s going to see the ball,” Martinez said.

“Like I said, for me, I told him, I said, ‘You’re going to chase, but with two strikes, you got to try to get the ball up.’

“Because they try to get underneath him a lot with two strikes. And today he did that. They elevated a fastball to him and he hit a home run.

“That was a ball, but he can hit balls up there.”

“He’s still young, he’s a young hitter,” Martinez continued later in his post game presser, “... and we’re trying to get him to understand what kind of hitter he can be.”

Rizzo Talks 2022 With MASN’s Dan Kolko:

Mike Rizzo: “Our goal is to improve the baseball team. It’s improve it in the short term, and improve it in the global look of where we’re going to be.

“So, we’re going to be aggressive in the trade pool, in the free agent market, in the trade market, we’re going to look in the international market, any way we can to improve our baseball team and to kind of build on the core group of guys we have in the big leagues now, the guys that will be coming in short order from the minor league system, and to pair them with the right complement of players from the outside via free agency or via the trade market, to fit in with the culture here and to really aid in getting us to the next level in the near future, and that’s to be a world champion again and to go on another 10-11-year run of success.”

Romero Gives Up 5 HRs:

Asked in his pregame press conference on September 25th if there were any players down in the minors he still wanted to get a look at this season, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez pointed to 25-year-old right-hander Tommy Romero, a pitcher Washington had claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays (for whom he had made his MLB debut earlier this season, following five seasons in the minors after he was drafted by Seattle in the 15th Round in 2017, and subsequently traded to the Rays (in 2018)).

Why did Romero interest the Nationals’ manager?

“He’s a smart pitcher. He’s not going to overpower you, but he’s got a good mix of pitches,” Martinez explained.

“He’s been competing down there, and they’re teaching him some other things down there as well. He’s another guy that we’ve been keeping our eye on, so we’ll see. Whether it’s this year, or whether it’s next year, we’ll see where we’re at with him.”

Romero put up a 3.51 ERA in 23 games (13 starts) and 66 23 IP at Triple-A in the Rays’ system this season, and a 2.33 ERA in six games (2 starts) and 19 13 IP at Triple-A Rochester before a call to return to the majors as the 29th player for Saturday’s doubleheader in D.C.

But it did not go well for the starter, who gave up eight hits (five of them home runs), four walks, and a total of eight runs, six earned, in 3 23 IP, over which he threw 91 pitches.

The starter acknowledged afterwards he wasn’t at his best.

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game Two Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“I like to be pitching at the top of the strike zone, but obviously the pitches today were above that, and they weren’t swinging at them,” Romero told reporters.

“They were just looking for pitches down the middle, and they got them.”

Romero was the first starter in franchise history to allow five home runs in an outing, and as MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted in his recap of the loss, “Only two pitchers in Washington’s major league history had done that: the expansion Senators’ Denny McLain in 1971 and the original Senators’ Firpo Marberry in 1932.” So, yeah, not a great outing, but as Martinez told reporters in his post game press conference, he’s not going to judge the young pitcher on one rough outing, rough as it was.

“I’m not going to go off of anything I saw today,” Martinez said.

“It was a tough outing for him. All the waiting, the rain, it was just bad. He’s got to go back because he was the extra player, but I’ll talk to him here after we’re done and tell him: ‘Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen this winter, but hang in there. I’m not going to judge you for just one game.’”

“Everything was up,” Martinez said when asked what had gone wrong.

“It was a tough spot for him. The kid thought he was pitching yesterday, we got postponed, comes in today, waits around all day. Just everything was elevated.

“Couldn’t get his split down. Fastball was up in the zone. It was tough. Just not a good day for him.”

How did Romero respond to getting the opportunity, waiting around a bit, then getting hit hard in the outing?

“He was — you know what — he was very poised,” Martinez said.

“Very good. It seemed like he got rattled. I know he was frustrated. Couldn’t get any outs, but you know what, I thought he handled himself well.”