More than an opportunity to spoil things for their opponents, Davey Martinez talked about the last few weeks of games against postseason-bound clubs as a good test and a chance for his young club to gain much-needed experience playing teams who are at the level his own ballclub wants to reach.
“For me, we don’t want to be in the position that we’re in, we really don’t,” Martinez said of the Washington Nationals potentially playing a spoiler role.
“We want to be headed to the playoffs, but what I like is our guys are young, they’re getting experience of still playing some pretty meaningful games, and they’re getting to learn to do this. So, they go out there, and ... for the most part they’ve played hard.”
They’ve also had some sloppy games in recent days, made some mistakes, dealt with the elements, and come up with a few wins (6-14 in the last 20) along the way.
“Some of the mistakes that [we’re] talking about could be the fact that they’re trying really hard, and they are young,” Martinez suggested.
“So, let’s get them to understand, ‘Hey, just continue to play the way we play, play good heads-up baseball and see what happens.’”
“The way I want to view it,” Martinez said when asked about his team playing out the season while some of their opponents are gearing up for the postseason, “... and the way I want our guys to view it, is that we can compete with anybody if we do the things right. And I think we’ve seen that. There’s been a lot of games where we’ve played really well and [didn’t end] up on top, played some good teams over the last few weeks and won some games. So I want them to continue to feel that, continue to play those games like, ‘Hey,’ I said three weeks ago that you couldn’t ever have told me that these guys [felt] like they were ever out of it. They continue to play and play hard.”
His 0 for 3 games in the finale with the Phillies left Joey Meneses with a .322/.369/.568 line in the last 29 games, with eight doubles and seven home runs in 130 plate appearances for the 30-year-old rookie since September 1st. The veteran of ten minor league seasons, who finally got an opportunity to play in the majors in the aftermath of Juan Soto’s trade to the Padres, burst onto the scene with a .333/.367/.591, six double, six home run August, and he hasn’t let up in the second month with the Nationals who signed him to a minor league deal this past winter.
“It took him a long time to get here, but he’s here, and he made the most of it,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters this past weekend, as Meneses went 8 for 24 (.333/.429/.542) with two doubles and a home run in seven games and 28 PAs on the final homestand of the 2022 campaign.
“And that’s only a testament to who he is and how much this game means to him,” Martinez said of Meneses continuing to produce in his first big league run.
“I’m looking forward to getting him up here, getting him in Spring Training, and [seeing] what he does in the full year,” the manager added.
“That’s part of it. But he’s been unbelievable.
“When we first got him, and he first started hitting, I thought you know, ‘We’ll see how long it will last.’ But he proved to me that he can hit, and he understands the hitting part of it, he understands the game. Some things we’re going to talk to him about as we finish the season, going into winter for him, and hopefully he gets stronger, gets a little bit more agile, and then we’ll go from there, but ... I really think that if he stays in the middle of the field, that he’s going to continue to hit.”
Davey Martinez told reporters following the Nationals’ loss to the Phillies in D.C. on Sunday it was difficult to assess the outing by Patrick Corbin, who returned from a lower back issue and gave up 10 hits, three walks, and seven earned runs over 4 2⁄3 innings pitched in an 8-1 loss, because the game was played in spite of persistent rain in the nation’s capital.
“It’s hard to assess, right?” Martinez asked rhetorically after the clubs played through the remnants of Hurricane Ian in order to avoid having to extend the 2022 regular season and get the game in. “It was miserable out there. I’m not going to lie. It was tough. I thought he threw the ball fairly well early, and then got hit a little bit, and then all of a sudden the field got really wet and kind of sloppy.”
In spite of conditions in Nationals Park, the Nats’ skipper said he liked what he saw from Corbin, who finished out the year with a positive stretch after struggling through a third-straight subpar run.
“He threw a couple balls I thought were pretty good pitches,” Martinez said.
“Just one of those days. I will say this though, the last five or six starts he threw the ball well for us, and I’m proud of him working all year long to get back [to where] we felt like he could compete and give us a chance to win the games.
“And he did that today. I’m going to look past this day and know that his back felt good, which is a good sign, and we’ll move on from there.”
“Felt good. Back felt good,” Corbin said when he spoke to reporters in the team’s clubhouse after the outing.
“Just a tough day overall,” he added. “A tough weekend just with everything, with the rain. Just trying to get them in and I think that was the case today. They just wanted to get it in, and just tough conditions for sure. Just trying to deal with it, but definitely altered some of my pitches and probably some other things.”
Corbin finished the fourth year of his 6-year/$140M deal with the Nationals with a 6.31 ERA, a 4.84 FIP, 49 walks (2.89 BB/9), and 128 Ks (7.55 K/9) in 152 2⁄3 IP.
“You know what, he struggled in the beginning as well all know,” Martinez said when asked to assess Corbin’s season overall, “… then all of a sudden like I said, the last 5-6-7 starts, he started understanding what he needs to do, how he needs to pitch, and he threw the ball well, and he kept us in the games, which was awesome.
“That’s a testament to him continuing to work with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey. I thought Hickey did a great job of getting him to understand that he needs another pitch. He started throwing his changeup a lot more. I thought his slider today, a few of them, were really, really good, really sharp, and he understands now that he needs to keep the ball down to be effective, and for the most part he did that over those last 5-6 starts, so I’ve got a good feeling that next spring, he comes in, he’s in shape, he gets ready, that we’ll see a different Corbin, the Corbin that we saw in ‘19.”
Corbin’s take on his 4th season in D.C., and what he needs to improve?
“There’s probably quite a bit,” he said. “I think as a starter, always trying to go out there your fifth day is something I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t think — the numbers obviously weren’t great. As a team, obviously, we want to improve on a lot of things. But finished the season healthy. I know my stuff is still there. So just looking forward to maybe tweaking a couple things for next year.”
His manager said he wanted to see Corbin continue to do the things he did over the last 5-6-7 turns in the rotation.
“He works hard, and like I said, if we can get him to continue to do what he did over the last 5-6 starts, he’ll keep us in the games, and I know he’s going to do that,” Martinez said.
“I don’t know if I have one thing,” Corbin said when he was asked what he wants to work on improving this offseason, “just trying to be more competitive, throw quality pitches, maybe trying to finish guys when I get ahead of them with two strikes, and keeping the ball in the ballpark. Just a combination of a lot. Just I think overall it was a tough season, but trying to learn from it and move on.”