clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats drop 4th straight; 8-6 loss to Tigers; Jake Irvin struggles + more...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ loss in the series opener with the Tigers in D.C.

Irvin Struggles Again, Out Early:

Jake Irvin’s third big league start got off to a good, uh, start, with four scoreless in which he allowed just two hits, but things went all pear-shaped for the 26-year-old, 2018 4th Rounder in the fifth.

Irvin gave up a single, RBI double, and a walk before recording the first out, then he allowed one- and two-out RBI singles, and hit a batter before he was lifted from the outing.

All three runners he left on scored too, so he was charged with six runs total in 4 23 IP.

“I think he just lost the strike zone there for a minute,” manager Davey Martinez said after an 8-2 loss to the New York Mets.

“The ball started getting up on him a little bit, and they started squaring some balls up. But other than that, the first four innings, he was really, really good. I think he just started getting a little bit ahead of himself. But I still thought he did well, other than one inning.”

Irving went from a 0.87 ERA at the start of the outing, (and a 0.67 ERA after four innings), to a 4.11 ERA at the end of his appearance.

“When things are going well, it’s easy to look at the good,” Irvin told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the game. “And it’s definitely good to look at the good.

“But when things like that happen, the game kind of challenges you a little bit. It’s definitely good to reflect and try to be as good as possible moving forward.”

“It’s a learning experience,” Martinez said, echoing his starter’s sentiments. “I always say when the game becomes a high-leverage situation, you’ve got to be able to control your heartbeat, slow everything down, and understand what you’re trying to do. He’s been good since he’s been here, so I said, ‘Don’t let that affect what you’re doing. You’ve been really good. So work on some things in the bullpen and then get you back out there in five days.’”

Five days later? Irvin had a real rocky first. First of all, though, he got squeezed a bit. He got up 0-2 on the first batter, and threw a fastball for a clear strike three. It was called a ball, it’s fair to say “inexplicably” [see below]. Detroit Tigers’ leadoff man Zach McKinstry fouled off a 1-2 curve, then he crushed a second consecutive curveball, hitting a 391 foot home run to the left field bullpen, 1-0.

Irvin made an error on a grounder in the next at-bat, then issued a walk, and he ended up giving up three runs in the opening frame. He threw 36 pitches in the top of the first.

Irvin retired the Tigers in order in a 14-pitch second, but a leadoff single and a one-out error (Luis García’s first this season, 45 games in) in the third, on a throw to first base on a potential inning-ending double play, opened the flood gates, with a walk in the next at-bat, and a two-out, three-run home run by Akil Baddoo which put the visiting team up 6-0. Irvin was up to 75 pitches with runners on the corners when he was lifted from the outing...

Jake Irvin’s Line: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 2 HRs, 75 P, 38 S, 4/1 GO/FO.

“Just from the first batter, the home run, he had the guy struck out,” Martinez said after what ended up a 8-6 loss, coming real close to going against his own stated personal preference for not criticizing umpires.

“I don’t like — but the ball is pretty much right down the middle of the plate. He gives up the home run, and then he could’ve got out of that inning with just one run, but the ball back to him, couldn’t make the play, and then the double play ball, that cost him another three runs. That’s the difference in the ballgame. I preach it all the time about playing defense. We’ve got to play defense every day. I talk about it all the time. Hitting comes and goes. We’ve got to catch the baseball.

“Can’t make those errors. And it was costly today.”

As MASN’s Mark Zuckerman wrote after the game last night, Irvin took responsibility for the way things went in the loss.

“It’s up to me to make good pitches, and I didn’t,” he said. “Simple as that.”

Martinez pointed back to the error after the leadoff home run as the point where it went wrong for the starter.

“I think him not making the play, and he’s young, I think he felt it a little bit,” Martinez said.

“But he comes back out there and he battles. He didn’t throw his curveball very good today, for strikes but he battled, and he would’ve been out of the next inning, the third inning with just eight pitches if we make the play.”

Ruiz’s Schedule?:

Keibert Ruiz, 24, suited up for the 38th time in 45 games on Friday night, after playing in all three games against the Marlins this week in Miami, (going 0 for 11 with a walk in the club’s three consecutive losses). Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked once again after the finale in loanDepot park about his plans for the catcher this season, and how often he plans to play one of the core members of the organization’s future.

“I wanted him to catch again — basically it’s also a matchup with [Marlins’ starter Eury] Perez with the right-handed hitter — we got two lefties coming up this weekend, starters, so I plan on getting [backup catcher] Riley [Adams] one of those two games, but it’s based on conversation last night with Keibert, he said — what’s funny is the games are going so quick, that he really, he said, ‘I feel less tired every day,’ so I said, ‘Okay, when we do this, let me know how you feel, and be honest with me, some days you’ll tell me, “Hey, look, I need a day.” Yesterday he said, ‘I feel fine,’ so he’s going to get an opportunity to catch today.’”

He’s getting an opportunity to catch just about every day. And that’s part of the plan, as the sixth-year skipper reiterated before the series opener with the Detroit Tigers last night.

“We talked a lot about him catching 130 games or so,” Martinez explained.

“It’s based on conversation with him, and what we see, and he loves it. He thinks he can catch every day, and I tell him, ‘You can’t. We’re going to have to give you some days off,’ but he loves being out there.”

And while Ruiz has struggled at the plate in recent games, (after a .281/.354/.393 start in March/ April), going 7 for 54 (.130/.186/.222) with a pair of doubles, a homer, three walks, and five strikeouts in 14 games and 59 plate appearances this month, before last night, Martinez said he even saw positives there, with a noted difference between how Ruiz handled rough stretches like this last season and how he is handling it now.

He did, however, drop Ruiz to seventh in the lineup after the backstop hit 3-4 for most of the month till now.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“I went back last night and I looked at all his — he’s hitting the ball hard, I mean he’s lining out 2-3 times a game,” Martinez said. “His exit velo when he does get balls in the zone and swings at strikes, is really, really good, so yeah, it’s just a little bit just kind of slow his mind down a little bit, but like I said, I told him, “Hey, you can’t really change what you’re doing up there. When you get the ball in the strike zone you’re hitting it hard, you’re lining out twice a game, so don’t start fiddling and changing stuff. He went out there today and took some extra swings, just to get him out there by himself a little bit, and I talked to [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] and he said he swung the bat really well. So, he’s a big part of our future, not only hitting, but catching.

“The good thing about it — last year, I could tell when he wasn’t hitting it affected the way he put his fingers down, how he caught. This year the catching has been really good, the game-calling has been really good. And it’s something that he’s worked on really hard with [Catching and Strategy coach] Henry [Blanco] and [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey, and the whole pitching staff, just the communication has been really good.

“So I want him to continue to do that no matter what.”

Ruiz lined a 2-2 changeup from Tigers’ starter Matthew Boyd to right field in the sixth, and the right fielder, Matt Vierling, lost it in the lights, for what was ruled the home team’s first hit of the game.

Ruiz scored one of three runs the Nationals plated in the sixth, on a double by CJ Abrams, then Abrams scored on a two-run home run by Lane Thomas, but it was 8-3 Detroit at that point.

Dominic Smith walked, moved to third on Stone Garrett’s single, and scored on a wild pitch by reliever Mason Englert, and Ruiz followed with a two-run homer which made it 8-6, but it was as close as the home team would get.

“We started getting a little bit more aggressive in the strike zone,” Martinez said of the team rallying late after struggling against the Tigers’ starter.

“Keibert had some really good at-bats. They all started swinging the bats a little bit better, but getting the ball in the strike zone was good to see.”

CJ Abrams Revisited:

CJ Abrams went 6 for 16 (.375/.375/.813) at the plate, with two doubles and a home run over four games against the New York Mets at home in Washington, D.C. this past weekend-plus, but then went 0 for 11 with seven Ks in Miami, as the Nationals dropped three straight to the Marlins earlier this week.

His manager, Davey Martinez, talked about Abrams in his post game in Miami on Thursday afternoon, and summed up the shortstop’s struggles pretty succinctly.

“Chase. Chase. Chase,” Martinez told reporters.

“When he got the balls that he could hit, just had a little bit of an upswing,” he added, “... and that’s caused by just being young and having some success hitting some home runs. We got to get him back above the baseball, and through the baseball.”

Going into the series opener with Detroit last night, Martinez was asked if he planned to talk to his 22-year-old charge to address what Abrams needs to do at the plate after a tough run in loanDepot park.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“We’ve had that conversation already,” he said. “So, I don’t want him to read in to too much. He’s been swinging the bat. He left here swinging the bat really good. He had some — you know, look, all in all their starters there [in Miami] are pretty good, so I told him, ‘The chase. We got to get you back in the zone. And when you do that you’ve hit the ball really hard. So let’s just get back in the zone, no chasing, and swing the bat like you’ve been swinging, because he has been swinging the bat really well.”

Abrams was in an 0 for 12 mini-slump when he doubled in the sixth inning last night, driving in the first run of the game for the Nationals. He scored on a home run by Lane Thomas.

Abrams ended the night 1 for 4 with the double and a run scored.