Have To Be Better, Got It:
Without questioning the effort any of his players put forth in Saturday’s dispiriting 9-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants, fifth-year Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez did make it clear that the results were unacceptable.
The night before, they broke an eight-game losing streak with a 22-hit, 14-run explosion in the series opener, but the following night things didn’t go their way, and the Nats put up a total of 3 runs on 11 hits, going 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and three errors in the field in a sloppy loss.
“We had a couple opportunities to break the game open early, we hit into a double play with bases loaded, but the last two days I thought the at-bats, they’re coming,” Martinez said.
“It’s good to see us get hits. Yesterday, we had the hits with guys on base, today we weren’t so fortunate, and the errors, man, we’ve got to clean that up, we really do, I mean, you can’t give guys, as I always say, you can’t give good teams 28-29-30 outs, it just can’t happen.”
His message for the club was a simple one.
“They’ve got to play better,” the fifth-year skipper said.
“Like I said before, man, we can’t afford to give teams — look, our pitchers are going to put — they’re going to get hit and put the balls in play, got to play good defense, and we were playing good defense, but today was not good, not good out in the field.”
Alcides Escobar, who went just 7 for 57 (.123/.194/.140) over his first 17 games and 62 plate appearances this season, was 5 for 8 in the first two games with the Giants, but he picked up one of the three errors the Nationals were charged with on Saturday, and made a shaky throw or two across the infield that raised concerns.
“He’s rushing a little bit to make the throws,” Martinez said. “I thought he had a little bit more time on some of those plays, but look, he’s a one-time Gold Glover, so he’s got to make the plays. Those plays have got to be made. I know they gave that one kid a hit, but I even thought that was an error.
“I’ve seen him make that play tons of times, so he’s got to use his legs a little bit better, and move his feet a little bit better, but those plays got to be made.”
While he was critical of the defensive work by Escobar, Martinez did note that the shortstop and Nats’ center fielder Victor Robles, (6 for 8 with a double in the first two with the Giants, after a 7 for 46; .152/.204/.239 start in his first 18 games and 52 PAs), showed signs of real improvement at the plate in Oracle Park.
“They’re swinging the bat better,” Martinez said, “and for Vic, like I said, we worked with him in Spring Training, and it’s starting to click for him, so that’s kind of nice to see, and see the results for him, so it was good. Alcides, you know, we worked on him getting ready earlier and staying on top of the baseball, so he’s starting to collect some hits as well, so if we can get the bottom of that order going and getting on base, it’s really going to help us out a lot.”
How big a difference could the bottom of the order hitters getting on be for the offense as a whole?
“I mean, we could end up scoring a lot of runs,” Martinez told reporters. “Like I said, we got some good hitters at the top of the order, and if we can get on base for those guys, we’ll score some runs. So we’re going to continue to work with these guys, like I said, I’m starting to see some better swings from those guys at the bottom, so it’s good to see.”
Escobar sat out of the series finale, with Martinez explaining, “I wanted to give him today off with the day game, get [Lucius] Fox back in there, and have an other day for him tomorrow.”
Robles went 2 for 4 with a walk in the win over the Giants.
Davey Martinez has joked often since he took over as the Nationals’ manager in 2018, about how in his own playing days he was always a slow starter, joking at one point about how he would even try to convince his manager back in the day to just hold him out till May, but of course they’d send him out there, and he did eventually improve when the calendar turned from March/April. He’s serious.
Martinez was a .250 hitter in his career in March/April, a .272 hitter in May, .284 in June, .276 in July, .287 in August, and .280 in September or October. Can that be the same for a whole team?
“It can be,” he said when asked that on Sunday, after his club’s 7-16 start to the 2022 season.
“Because April — the pressure is always to start off really good. Everybody wants to start off good, right? Sometimes it just doesn’t happen and you put added pressure. Now it’s like — I said to all the guys, ‘May 1st. May 1st. Go have some fun. Go play baseball.’ So we’ll see what happens. We got a chance to win the series today, so we’re excited about that.”
“I always started horribly,” he said, “but May 1st was my like, ‘Here we go. Now it’s time to go.’
“And it was, for me, it’s like all of a sudden May came around and for some unknown reason I would hit in May.”
With help from Giants’ starter Alex Cobb, the Nationals put up five runs in the first inning of play in May on Sunday, and went 1-0 to start the second month of the season with a series win in San Francisco.