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Washington Nationals news & notes: CJ Abrams gets night off; Paolo Espino still searching for W + more...

Highlights from the Nationals’ media availability on Wednesday from St. Louis.

Wins & Losses:

Patrick Corbin will, hopefully, for his sake, avoid reaching the 20-loss plateau, which MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted last month, hasn’t been reached, “... since Mike Maroth went 9-21 for the Tigers in 2003.” Corbin’s (6-17) through 27 outings (with a 6.28 ERA, a 4.91 FIP, 46 walks, and 118 Ks in 134 23 innings pitched this season).

On the other (or another) end of the whole win/loss thing, is Nationals’ righty Paolo Espino, winless, (0-7), over 36 appearances, 16 starts, and 101 IP this season, in which he’s put up a 4.28 ERA, a 4.60 FIP, 19 walks, and 80 Ks. Say what you wish about wins and losses as a way to measure a pitcher’s success, it does matter to the starter and his teammates.

“There’s no doubt,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after Espino gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings of a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium, when a reporter asked if the pitcher’s teammates want to get him his first win.

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

“These guys go out there to try to win every game, but he goes out there and he keeps us in the ballgame, and if you look, we haven’t scored very many runs for him.

“We got to just kind of score some runs for us, but he goes out and he keeps us in the game and he pitches well.”

As for assessing Espino’s outing against the Cards, Martinez said he liked most of what he saw from the starter, who recorded nine swinging and 18 called strikes in the outing (10 of them with his four-seamer), and tossed three scoreless before giving up a leadoff homer, a one-out single, double, and sac fly, and a two-out RBI double in a 22-pitch stretch which in the end accounted for all the runs he allowed.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” Martinez added.

“Fell behind on [Brendan] Donovan and got a ball in the middle-down [on the home run], and he left a couple balls up, but other than that, I thought he threw the ball really well.”

Still Talking Meneses Every Day:

In 30 games since making his major league debut on Aug. 2,” the Nationals wrote in their pregame notes for last night’s game in St. Louis, “Joey Meneses is hitting .344 (42-for-122) with eight doubles, seven home runs, 16 RBI, five walks and 20 runs scored,” and, “he’s hit safely in 26 of the 30 games.” So, yes, the 30-year-old rookie has gotten off to a great start in his major league career. And that was a lot of 30s for one paragraph.

In the first two games with the Cardinals, Meneses went 5 for 9 with two doubles, with three hits in the 6-0 win in the series opener and two doubles in the 4-1 loss in the second of four.

“He takes every pitch, and gets to the next pitch, he’s always in every at-bat, he’s always ready for the next pitch,” Davey Martinez said when the manager was asked what about Meneses’s run stands out and impresses him.

“Today, for me, watching him turn on a ball like he did the last inning [against Ryan] Helsley, that was awesome,” he continued.

“That ball was up in the zone, and he got to it fairly well,” for leadoff double in the top of the ninth.

“This guy, I wouldn’t say that he surprises me, because I felt like when I saw him in Spring Training that he had a quick bat, but he’s done it all year and he continues to do it.”

“He’s been extremely consistent for us,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning.

“He’s really everything that Matt LeCroy, our Triple-A manager, and De Jon Watson, our Farm Director, had said about him throughout the season. It’s really a terrific story about a guy that could always hit in his career. I think that he was almost a triple crown winner in the minor leagues at times during his career, and just never got an opportunity to crack the big league roster, and at the trade deadline he was the guy we chose to come up and play for us, and he hasn’t looked back.

MLB: SEP 06 Nationals at Cardinals

‘And he’s been a positive influence in the clubhouse, and although he’s a 30-year-old rookie, he’s really taken advantage of his time here in the big leagues.”

It’s a 30-game stretch of success, but it’s still a relatively small sample size, Rizzo said later in the show.

“These are small samples,” he explained, “we’re really impressed and overjoyed by the start that he’s had, but we have to take it into context that it’s a small sample size, but this is one of those guys, I talk about it all the time, these type of guys have to prove it each and every day in the big leagues, unfortunately they have no margin for error.

“When they go bad, they go away, you know what I mean? And Joey has proved to us that not only does he have a good approach at the plate, he’s hit some really good pitching so far in his young major league career, and he’s played very well defensively, especially in right field, which he’s accustomed to.”

According to his manager, Meneses, having earned the opportunity to finally play in the big leagues, is taking nothing for granted, putting in the work, and trying to keep this run going strong.

“He works hard, he studies the pitchers, he’s got a game plan every game about what he wants to do up there, so he’s been good, man. He’s helped us in a lot of ways,” Martinez said.

“Not only in hitting, but playing right field fairly well, he’s playing first base fairly well.

“So for a guy that’s stuck around for a long time, gets an opportunity to get to the major leagues, he’s done really well.”

Meneses went 1 for 5 with a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the eighth inning last night, which drove in the first of four runs the Nationals scored in the inning to go ahead, 5-1.

But Kyle Finnegan blew the lead in the ninth, giving up five as the Cards rallied for a walk-off, 6-5 win.

Finnegan Again:

Kyle Finnegan hadn’t pitched since September 1st. He took the mound last night with a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth, and gave up a leadoff single, walk, RBI ground-rule double, one-out walk, a two-out RBI single, and walk-off, two-run double.

Tommy Edman ended it in Busch Stadium, after a season-high 31 pitches from Finnegan, whose stuff was where it usually is, according to his manager, who left the closer in after five of seven batters reached base and the Cardinals pulled within one, at 5-4, before the game-winning hit.

“He was throwing the ball well,” Martinez said of Finnegan’s outing, “... it’s just you get a guy 0-2 to 4-2, and you start walking guys, I mean, it’s — but it’s been kind of, he walks guys, but he’s our closer, he was throwing the ball well.

“We were watching him. Nothing was off. In that situation, I’m going to let him go.

“Just didn’t happen tonight.”

Even as the pitch count rose, Martinez was determined to stick with Finnegan for the final outs of the game.

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

“Unless they tie the game, then we’ll do something different, but he’s our guy. He got two outs. I said, ‘Okay, just make your pitches.’ Edman got a ball up and smoked it to left field.”

The manager didn’t talk to his closer after the loss, but he said he’d speak to him before the series finale this afternoon.

“No, I won’t talk to him till tomorrow. I’m sure he’s upset. He’s frustrated. Tomorrow when he’s calm a little bit I’ll just talk to him and just tell him, ‘Hey, some days — when you close games, some days go well, some don’t. The biggest thing for me is that you’ve got to come in there, up four runs, and you’ve got to pound the strike zone. The walks are going to get you.’”

Abrams Section:

Davey Martinez said from the start when the club called CJ Abrams up after acquiring the 21-year-old shortstop from the San Diego Padres, he was going to play short ever day, but sit when the manager deemed the rookie infielder needed a break, and he decided to get Abrams a night off in the third of four this week in St. Louis, after he went 7 for 13 with one triple in the final two games in New York and the opener with the Cardinals, but 0 for 3 in the second game in Busch Stadium.

“We’re asking him to do a lot, even in-between the games, he’s getting a lot of work in, so my thought is, we got a day game tomorrow, give him a break today,” Martinez said in his pregame press conference on Wednesday afternoon, “got another lefty today, so just give him a little breather and get him back out there tomorrow.

“But like I said, he’s going to work on some things in the cage with [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] and Six [Asst. Hitting Coach Pat Roesller] and then we’ll get him out there, taking ground balls and work on some other things, but he’s doing great, and for me it’s just part of the process with him.”

As with most major leaguers, but especially young ones, who can play every day, Abrams doesn’t like sitting, but Martinez said he understands.

“As we all know, these kids want to play, but I told him, I said, ‘Hey, we’re going to make sure we take care of you,’” Martinez explained, “‘... and it’s not necessarily a day off, you’re going to get some work, and you’ll be ready to play if we need you.’

“But I do want to give you a little mental break, and then we’ll go from there.”

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The plan, the fifth year manager said, was to get in work his hitting and fielding, then do, “some other stuff in the weight room as well to try to get him stronger, because we want him to go home this winter with a plan of what he needs to do to get better and what he needs to do to get stronger, so this is part of it.”

“The big thing is continue with arm strength,” Martinez said.

“Continue with his development, his agility, getting him stronger, and also continue to work with his hitting.

“And he’s going to take all this stuff, all this information, and like I said, get better, and hopefully come back stronger in spring.”

“He’s doing something that we asked him to do from Day 1, he’s playing great defense,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies when asked about Abrams in his call-in visit to the show on Wednesday.

“You can see the athleticism, the speed, the burst, the great hands,” Rizzo added, “... the great arm at shortstop he brings, and his bat is always going to trail his [defense] because his defense comes out of the gate so strong, and he’s an exciting player. I think you can see what he’s done for the team since he’s taken over there. The team ERA has been slashed because of his defense, and I think that he’s the captain of that infield already at 21.”