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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Yadiel Hernández at the plate; Juan Soto’s growth + more...

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

Yadi Dadi - Who Wants To Party?:

Yadiel Hernández singled up the middle on a 95 MPH 1-2 fastball from Astros’ right-hander Cristian Javier the first time up in Saturday night’s 13-6 win, then he homered on a slider a couple innings later, turning a hanging breaking ball from Javier around and hitting it 357 feet out to right for his 3rd home run of the year, and his second on a slider.

Hernández finished Saturday’s game 2 for 5, with a .337/.375/.528 line in 25 games and 96 plate appearances on the season, with eight doubles and three homers in his third year in the majors.

Four of those doubles and two of the homers he’s hit had come in the last 11 games and 44 PAs heading into Sunday’s series finale with the Astros.

MLB: MAY 12 Mets at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“For me, Yadi is really good when he hits the ball up the middle the other way,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters on Saturday night. “But when he gets a hanging breaking ball, he can turn on it like he did tonight. So, it was a good night for him offensively.”

There was some frustration towards the end of the game, however, with a missed ball that went in and out of his glove near the wall in left, and a misplay in the outfield, and as much progress as Hernández has made as a defender since coming up to the majors, it is still an area of focus his manager wants him to work on.

“We had some hiccups on defense in the outfield, and that can’t happen. We talk about that all the time, and I addressed it and I told him, I said, ‘Hey, if we’re going to win consistently, that’s got to stop, it really does, so we got to play better, and they got it.”

Back on the positive side, however, Hernández connecting on a slider and hitting it out is a nice development.

“I mean, for me, the big thing for Yadi,” Martinez explained, “... when he gets to two strikes, is get the ball up. We talk about the breaking balls being up. He’s got to look for breaking balls up. He did that well tonight, and if he can continue to do that — and I told him don’t worry about pulling the ball, because the way you swing, if they hang you a breaking ball you’re going to pull it with ease, and tonight he did that, he got a breaking ball up, stayed on it, and smoked it to right field, and it went out of the ballpark.”

Soto No. 400:

Juan Soto took his 400th and 401st career walks (in 499 career games) in Saturday’s win over the Houston Astros in D.C., and before the finale in Nationals Park yesterday, skipper Davey Martinez talked to reporters about the 23-year-old slugger’s knowledge of the zone as something the organization identified early and stressed with the slugger as he worked to get to the majors.

“It’s something that we noticed when he was younger,” Martinez said. “We approached him when he was young in A-ball, Double-A, about accepting his walks. He took it to heart, and he got better at it. One year I think he had 99 walks* or something in the minor leagues, and that’s the reason that he was up early, because he would accept his walks, that’s something we look for in a young player, and as he gets here, and the things I always remind him of is, one, stay up the middle of the field, and two, is to accept your walks, take your walks, don’t chase. And he’s always conscious about that. He knows the strike zone better than anybody I know. He really does. But if you make a mistake, he’s ready to hit it.”

[ed. note - “Soto never had 99 walks in a year in the minors. He walked 59 times total in 122 games in the minors before he was called up in 2018 (after signing with the organization in 2015.”]

Soto’s two walks on Saturday night left him with 28 vs 25 Ks going into the finale with the Astros, after he was the only player in the majors with more walks (145) than Ks (93) in ‘21.

Martinez talked as well about Soto serving as a role model for other players, younger and older, on the Nationals’ roster.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

“The biggest thing — my biggest take from that, is that he’s always ready to hit every pitch,” the fifth-year manager explained, “... and with that being said, he can stay on the ball a little bit longer. He picks up — he recognizes pitches way before the strike zone because he’s ready, and that’s something that I think young hitters should understand: ‘Hey, if you pick up the ball early, you’ve got a little bit more time to make a decision.’ That’s what he does really well.”

Martinez has been on the bench in D.C. for each of Soto’s first five seasons in the majors, so he’s had an opportunity to see the young star grow as a player and a person, and he said on Sunday Soto is more a lead-by-example type than a vocal leader, but does what he can as a young veteran.

“He’s been — as I said, leaders come from within, you don’t force people to be leaders, and he’s quietly becoming a leader in his own way,” Martinez explained. “He doesn’t say a whole lot, but when he does, he listens, he communicates really well with players, whether it’s veterans, young guys, yesterday I heard him and — well, the three of us were in a conversation with me, him, and [Nelson Cruz], and just listening to those two talking about pitches, sequences, you know, what we’re seeing, what he thought his swing was at one particular point, it was pretty awesome. But he understands really well who he is and who he wants to be, and he tries to raise everybody’s game to what his game is, which is great.”

Once More On 2019:

The Nationals finally won a home game against the Astros on Saturday, after failing to do so in the 2019 World Series, when the visiting team won every one of the seven games, so it was nice to break a streak like that, and for Martinez and Co. in the Nats’ clubhouse to once again revisit all their memories from their run to the championship.

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

“It’s always fun,” he said of getting a moment to look back.

“I was watching something about [the Astros] from ‘17 in the playoffs, ‘18 with them and the Yankees, and I said, ‘How come they don’t show ‘19?’ You know? That was fun too. But it definitely — it’s fun knowing what both teams went through that year. We both — we played in the World Series together, so those memories never go away.”