Davey Martinez talked, after the Washington Nationals’ win in the series opener with Atlanta in Truist Park this weekend, about reaching 70 wins, a 15-win improvement over 2022’s total, and a sign of progress for the rebooting organization as they work their way back to being a competitive team in the postseason race once again.
“Every win is important, but to get to 70 when, honestly ... we started the season, we didn’t know what to expect,” Martinez said, “... it feels good. We’ve got two more games. I’m hoping to get 71 tomorrow. But I’m proud of these guys. They fought all year, they got better, today we fought back and it was a good win, a good victory, and it feels good.”
Martinez’s club rallied from a 6-4 deficit for a 10-6 win in the first of three with the Braves in the 2023 NL East champion’s home, something they’ve done all season, Martinez said, sort-of a trademark of the scrappy Nats when they were able to win games.
“It seems like we’ve done it quite a bit this year, but at the end of the day a win is a win, and it feels good to win today,” Martinez told reporters.
As much as his focus is on the day-to-day, being where his feet are, and going 1-0 each day in the regular season, Martinez did take a moment to acknowledge the significance of their club picking up 15 (at that point, now 16), wins a year after they went 55-107 overall.
“It means a lot,” the sixth-year skipper (who got a multi-year extension late this season) said.
“It means that we’re working hard to get these guys better, they’re buying in and they are getting better, and like I’ve said — it’s been trying some days, but these guys have worked really hard, and I’m proud of them, I really am.”
His club dropped the middle game of the three-game set in the Braves’ home, but bounced back and took the series and regular season finale by outlasting their 104-win rivals for a 10-9 victory.
“I could tell you that this is how we played all year,” Martinez reiterated when he spoke in his final post game press conference of the season.
“We battled back. We played hard. We played for 27 outs. And to finish up with a victory, it’s all good. It’s a testament to how hard these guys played, and they showed it again tonight.”
Getting contributions from the core members of what the Nationals hope will be the next competitive club, and a number of young players who’ve made the most of a chance this season made the win an especially satisfying one for their manager.
“I love it. Love it. This is a good ending to a new start for next year, right?” Martinez said.
“The kids were playing hard. [Drew] Millas with a big walk. Luis [García] with two big walks for us, Keibert [Ruiz] coming through, [Jacob] Young, big base hit, Lane [Thomas] with four hits, CJ [Abrams] doing what he did with his stolen bases, getting a big hit for us, it was a good way to end the season. We could build off of this.”
Abrams stole two bases in the game, his 46th, which tied the franchise’s single-season mark (2005-present) and his 47th, which surpassed the total Trea Turner put up in 2017, to set the standard for base-stealing in D.C. He stole 36 of those bases after a move to the leadoff spot in early July, impressing his manager with the way he played and embraced his role as a set-up man for the rest of the Nationals’ lineup.
“It’s an honor,” Abrams said of setting the franchise mark in his first full season playing for the Nationals, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman on Sunday night.
“It shows that the hard work pays off. All the little things pay off in the long run. Next year, let’s see if can do even more than that.”
“He’s been getting better and better every day,” Martinez said. “I hope he understands what kind of player he really, truly, could be, because he could be an impact player moving forward. I loved his energy the last few months, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I just talked to him before you guys got in and I told him I was very proud of what he did, very proud of how he turned himself around, and that we got to keep moving forward, and he totally agreed.”
Martinez was asked if Abrams was aware he was two stolen bases away from the mark as he went into the game.
“There’s no doubt about it. He wanted it,” the skipper said. “I’m glad he got it.”
What does he want Abrams and the rest of the young roster to take away from the season as a whole?
“They need to understand that we got better, we progressed a lot, and we got to be ready to go next spring. But I’m proud of the way they fought back. They fought every day. They didn’t quit. Played hard for 27 outs, and that’s all I can ask from these guys, and they did get better, so I’m excited about this winter, what can happen, and then coming into Spring Training with a lot of these guys, the future guys that we have and the guys that are coming up. It’s going to be a fun winter and I’m looking forward to Spring Training.”