FRONT PAGE - TREVOR WILLIAMS COMPETES:
“I watched him over the years,” Davey Martinez said after free agent signee Trevor Williams’ fourth start of the new season, a six-inning, two-run outing which left him with a 3.38 ERA, 4.65 FIP, and a .244/.282/.436 line against in his first 21 1⁄3 innings pitched for the Nationals.
“He’s done awesome,” the manager added. “He keeps you in the ballgame. That’s what we expect of him. He goes out there and he competes.”
Williams signed a two-year/$13M free agent deal with Washington this past winter, following a season and a half in New York in which he moved back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotation for the Mets, working mostly in relief.
“I love his competitiveness,” Martinez said when asked why the club targeted Williams this winter when they searched for starting pitching. “I love the way he attacks the strike zone.
“He’s got a mix of four pitches, and I felt like that was important for what we are trying to do here.
“But I really — facing him, the guy competes, and the guy’s a gamer, and that’s something that I really love.”
Back in Citi Field last night, the 30-year-old right-hander tossed a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 first, then ran into trouble in the second, giving up singles by Jeff McNeil and Daniel Vogelbach, with McNeil taking third on Vogelbach’s hit and scoring on a sac fly to left by Mark Cahna when the Mets tested Alex Call’s arm and his throw was up the first base line, 1-0.
A single by Brett Baty sent Vogelbach to third, and a walk to Francisco Álvarez loaded them up before a force at second ended a 26-pitch second.
It was tied 1-1 in the fourth, courtesy of a solo homer by Alex Call off of Mets’ starter Joey Lucchesi in the top of the third, when Bret Baty hit a low 0-1 curve 400 ft. to center, over Victor Robles’s glove and the outfield wall, 2-1.
CALL YOUR SHOT ALEX pic.twitter.com/Gnn8whRyDY— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 27, 2023
Back-to-back singles (by Francisco Álvarez and Brandon Nimmo) and a walk (to Starling Marte) loaded the bases after the home run, and a two-run double to right by Francisco Lindor made it a 4-1 game in the home team’s favor.
Williams was up to 95 pitches when he worked his way out of a two-on, two-out jam in the Mets’ half of the fifth, and the Nationals went to the pen after that...
Joey Meneses, Lane Thomas (off Joey Lucchesi), and Stone Garrett (off of reliever Tommy Hunter) singled in the Nats’ half of the sixth, so the Nationals went to their bench for Luis García, whose one-out RBI single to center field kept the line moving and made it a 2-run game, 4-2 NY, and a run scored when Victor Robles grounded into a force at third, but he hustled to first to avoid an inning-ending DP, 4-3 after five and a half.
Brandon Nimmo singled off Erasmo Ramírez to start the Mets’ sixth, and scored one out later on a double by Lindor, 5-3, and Pete Alonso snapped an 0 for 19 rut with an RBI hit which made it 6-3, and 7-3, when Alonso scored on a blooper to short center field off of Daniel Vogelbach’s bat.
Hunter hit the first two batters he faced in the Nats’ eighth, putting Keibert Ruiz and Lane Thomas on, and an error by Franciso Lindor on a potential DP loaded them up and gave the Nationals a bases-loaded opportunity.
Brooks Raley took over for the Mets, and gave up a sacrifice fly by Luis García, 7-4, then hit Victor Robles, setting CJ Abrams up ... for the go-ahead slam, 8-7. What the what?
The CJ everyone will be talking about tonight.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 28, 2023
CJ Abrams made his first career grand slam count.#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/zfFpFSve4f
Mason Thompson threw three innings in relief on 28 pitches in the series opener, and the Nats’ skipper went to him again in the eighth, with a one-run lead, but Starling Marte hit a single to start the home half of the inning, stole second, and scored on an RBI double by Pete Alonso, 8-8.
Alonso scored on an RBI triple to right by Jeff McNeil, on which Lane Thomas got twisted in circles and lost it at the fence, 9-8.
“We played really, really well,” Martinez said after the club took 2 of 3 but lost the finale with their NL East rivals.
“We were down, we come back, CJ with a big grand slam. But, hey, they’ve got nothing to be ashamed about. We played hard for this whole week. So let’s go home and keep playing the way we’re playing. It’s been a great week. And I really believe that these guys really are playing with a lot of energy. They believe in each other. They believe in themselves. And they’re playing really well.”
BACK PAGE - 2-Spot Luis García Gets Night Off:
Davey Martinez had soon-to-turn 23-year-old infielder Luis García hitting down in the middle of the Nationals’ lineup (5-6-7) for most of the first month-plus of the season, but in advance of the series opener in New York this week, he put the second baseman in the two-spot.
“Couple reasons,” he said when about his thinking in making the move. “One, I’m trying to get that group of guys, the left-handers, just for matchup’s sake [versus Mets’ righty Josè Butto] and two, is we’re searching to try to get somebody up there, and this guy matches up well with Luis. So I talked to Luis today about wanting to keep him up there against right-handed pitching. But he’s got to work good counts, he’s got to get the ball in the zone. He’s swinging the bat a lot better, so you know hopefully this will help him hitting in front of [Jeimer Candelario]. Candy has been swinging the bat fairly well. So we’ll try it out and see what happens. But I think we can handle it. We’ve done it before with him, we’ve done it before with him. So hopefully he can stick there and get on base and drive some balls.”
Garcìa has a .204/.271/.296 line against right-hand pitchers early this season, (.231/.214/.462 vs LHPs), though in his four-plus seasons he’s put up a solid if unspectacular .268/.300/.414 line vs righties (.238/.251/.343 vs lefties).
Martinez put García back there for the second game in Citi Field as well, with another righty, Kodai Senga, starting for the home team, sticking with the lineup which won the first game.
“I want to get Luis up there and keep him up there for a while. Let him bat second,” the manager explained. “We worked good at-bats yesterday and we took our walks. This guy today, we have to do the same thing. We’ve got to approach him the same way. He’s gonna make you chase. He’s got a really good changeup or whatever that thing is that he throws, but it’s good. And we just got to get the ball up a little bit and not chase.”
Martinez has been mixing things up early this season, with different lineup a lot of days, but it’s part of the process of trying to find the lineup that works best for the team he has this year.
“We got so many young guys, for me it’s trying to figure out where they fit best for our lineup, that’s what it comes down to,” he said. “So we’ve been moving guys around. My biggest thing is, you know, like I said yesterday, is to kind of get Luis up there, keep him second against righties. Spread the lefties out a little bit and see how that plays out.
“Yesterday was a good day. So I thought, hey, today this guy is kind of similar, and we’ll keep the same lineup.
“Tomorrow, it might be something different.”
Against left-hander Joey Lucchessi on Thursday night, Martinez went right-hand heavy with the lineup, giving both García and lefty Dominic Smith a night off with Michael Chavis in for García at second and Joey Meneses playing the field at first base while Stone Garrett got in there as the DH. Poor Jeter Downs, amirite?
“I just wanted to give them a day off,” the Nats’ manager said, referring to García and Smith.
“We got back-to-back lefties, but it’s more for Luis. Luis has been playing since he came back [from] his hamstring [injury]. He’s been playing every day, so I just wanted to give him a day. Then a long train ride tonight, but ultimately he’s gotta be available to play sometime today too, as well.”
But wait, “Jeter Downs is still with the ballclub?” you ask. He is.
Downs, a 2017 1st Round pick by Cincinnati’s Reds, who was traded to LA’s Dodgers (along with Josiah Gray) in 2018, and then dealt to Boston’s Red Sox in 2020, debuted for the Sox in 2022. He’s been up since April 11th with Washington but has still not yet been put into a game.
“Eventually I would like to get him in the game,” Martinez told reporters three days after the 24-year-old infielder, who was selected off waivers by the Nationals this winter, came up in the aftermath of Ildemaro Vargas’s shoulder injury.
What’s Downs been up to since?
“Oh, he’s working,” Martinez said. “He’s working. We feel like he’s still young. He’s got some stuff to work on. He’s working diligently with [Run Prevention Coordinator Ricky Gutierrez] and [Third Base and infield coach] Gary DiSarcina on his defense and working really hard on his hitting.
“We saw some things in Spring Training that we want to kind of correct. And we’re really trying to get him on plane and get his swing a little flatter, so he can start making more contact. Hard contact. But he’s working and so far he’s doing well.”
Garrett’s start was just his ninth early this season, after he played two in Minnesota, going 0 for 5 with a walk and two Ks in the series with the Twins.
Martinez was asked about his previous talk of wanting to get Meneses at-bats as the first baseman so he stays sharp in the field, and getting Garrett at-bats too, when Meneses is DHing when not playing the field.
“Yeah, I mean for me, right now, [Meneses is] going to get most of his at-bats at DH. That can change. Look, I got some outfielders that I want to see them play. Stone Garrett’s another one that has limited playing time, but when I get an opportunity, I want to get him out there. Meneses has the bulk of the DH at-bats and today gets to play some first base, with Dom having the day off. So we’ll try to get him out there as much as possible. But I talk to him about just continuing to work on his routine, DHing, and I think he’s getting better at it.”