Soto Slumping In Last 10:
Juan Soto’s .177/.333/.235 line over the last 10 games (in which he’d hit 2 doubles, taken 8 walks, and struck out twice in 42 plate appearances) had cost him 19 points on his batting average, 14 on his OBP, and 60 on his SLG, leaving him with a .245/.381/.452 line over 189 plate appearances in 43 games before last night’s matchup with the LA Dodgers.
Before last night’s game, Davey Martinez once again acknowledged he is making some of the moves he’s made with his lineup recently with an eye on getting Soto back on track after he’s struggled to put up Soto-esque numbers over the first two months of his fifth major league season.
As he explained when he moved Keibert Ruiz to the No. 2 spot in the lineup and dropped Soto down to third over the weekend, he wanted to get more runners on in front of Soto, hoping it might spark something as the 23-year-old slugger has struggled at the plate in recent weeks.
“We’re trying to get him really going again, and the other thing is maybe try to get Keibert, who’s been swinging the bat well, get him on base for [Soto] as well with [Ruiz] and César [Hernández] against the right-hander [Walker Buehler] today hitting in front of him. Try to get those two guys on base for him. So I try to explain to these guys — after the first inning it doesn’t matter if you hit 1-2-or-3, you’re just a hitter.”
But regardless of the situations he comes up to bat in, Martinez said, he just wants to see Soto putting together the sort of good at-bats he’s been known for early in his career.
“Just have good at-bats,” he said, “and that’s something that we talked to Juan about, ‘Hey, just go out there and have good at-bats. That’s all we ask you to do. Don’t try to do too much. The biggest thing with him is sometimes he tries to do a little too much. Yesterday, I loved the at-bat where he just stayed in, stayed up the middle, and hit a bullet right up the middle. So, that’s who he is, and on occasion he’ll get the ball in the air and hit it a long way.
“But we want him to understand that’s part of the process and part of his job is to drive in runs, and that’s what he’s really good at, so we want him to get comfortable doing that again.”
And the move out of the No. 2 spot Soto hit in all season until this past weekend, is not a permanent move.
“We’ll move him up again,” Martinez explained. “Like I said, he’s had opportunities to drive in a lot of runs for us, it just hasn’t happened yet, but it will happen, I know it will.”
Soto went 0 for 3 with two walks and an RBI groundout in the Nationals’ 9-4 loss last night.
Gray & Ruiz vs LA:
Davey Martinez talked in advance of the series opener with the Dodgers in Nationals Park about catcher Keibert Ruiz and starter Josiah Gray going up against their former team for the first time since they were traded to the Nats at last July 30th’s trade deadline.
He didn’t think either of them would press, or try to do too much in an “I’ll show them what they traded” sense, though he acknowledged how both tried to do more than necessary in their first few weeks with their new team late last season.
“Since the first month that we got them where I felt they were putting a little bit of pressure on themselves they’ve been really good,” Martinez said before last night’s game, “and they’ve been getting better each and every day, and like I said the maturity level from both of them — they’ve really grown a lot, so I don’t expect them to go out there and play any different than what they’ve been doing. I know the excitement is going to be there, but they’re excited about playing anybody, but like I said, they’re Nationals, and I know both of them love being here.”
With Gray starting (it didn’t go well) and Ruiz behind the plate, the manager explained, Gray would have someone to help keep him in check and control his emotions as he’s done with the starter in previous outings as well.
“Keibert did a great job — like I said last outing — with him on some of the high-leverage situations,” Martinez said, “stepping out behind home plate and getting him to relax a little bit, and focus on the next pitch, so I expect Keibert to do that today with him. They’ve been working great together, they really have, so I’m looking forward to watching these two guys compete today.”
Gray threw 80 pitches in 3 IP, giving up five hits (three home runs), three walks, and seven runs, all earned. Ruiz went 2 for 5 with a run scored in the loss.
THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!!:
Ryan Zimmerman made his debut (or a lone guest appearance) in the MASN booth for last night’s game, but beforehand he made the rounds, visiting with the team in D.C. after the 2005 Nationals’ 1st Round pick officially retired at the end of the 2021 campaign. He joked around a bit about the universal DH giving him second thoughts about retiring, but really did a good job of offering insight, some analysis, and personal anecdotes from his time on the field with the Nationals.
Before the game, Davey Martinez talked about getting to see Zimmerman again and talk to his former first baseman.
“It was pretty good to talk to him. Talked to him about Josiah [Gray] and Keibert [Ruiz], them working together,” Martinez said, “... some of the positives of our younger guys doing well, so he’s pretty excited about doing this today, so it will be fun to hear him after the game.”
Martinez, of course, goes back and watches the games every night, so he’ll probably listen to a lot more than he might usually to hear what Zimmerman said like those of us who were tuning in mostly for that reason. Sorry, 2022 Nats. But we might need more guests up there in the booth to keep this interesting...