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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats lose to D-backs, 5-3; Jake Irvin solid again; Davey Martinez ejected + more

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ loss to the D-backs on Thursday afternoon...

27 Outs Only:

“We can’t make mistakes,” Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference yesterday.

“We can’t give other teams 30 outs and expect to win.”

With the speedy Corbin Carroll at first base after the D-backs’ outfielder grounded into a force in the opening frame of Thursday’s makeup game for Arizona in D.C., Washington’s new center fielder, Derek Hill, in his second game after getting called up to the majors by the Nationals on Wednesday, misplayed a two-out single to center by Christian Walker to give Carroll enough time to speed around and score for the first of four unearned runs in the eventual 5-3 win for the visiting team in Nationals Park.

It was tied at 1-1, courtesy of Lane Thomas’s 12th homer of the season in the third, when the Nats’ second baseman, Luis García, misplayed a pop-up behind second base with a runner on second in the fourth, allowing said runner, Carroll again, to score on a sac fly in the next at-bat, 2-1 D-backs. García broke back, but the ball died in the wind fell well in front of him.

In the seventh, Ketel Marte hits a three-run blast two outs after an error put the leadoff man on against Jordan Weems, who’d issued a two-out walk to keep the inning going before the homer.

“Like I said before, I think we talked about it earlier, you can’t give good teams 28-29 outs,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ 14th loss in 18 games so far in June. “You can’t. I think we had four unearned runs today. Take those away — and we’re right in the ballgame. So, we gotta get better at that, we really do. And if we do that, we’re going to be able to compete.

“So we got to just come back tomorrow ... and just play a good, clean baseball game, and see where we’re at.”

Asked what he saw on the first two errors, Martinez said García misread the pop, and Hill just took his eye off the ball.

“[García] turned completely, his back was towards the infield. He’s got to see the ball, he’s got to understand what the wind’s doing,” the manager explained. “He can’t really take his eye off the ball, it wasn’t hit that hard. He tried to run back to a spot, and the ball just — the wind just killed it, and he just couldn’t come back and recover and catch it, and Derek just took his eye off the ball, went underneath his glove.

Irvin’s Turn:

Skipping one turn in the rotation for Jake Irvin gave the Washington Nationals a chance to focus on their 26-year-old starter’s mechanics, allowing him to work closely with Pitching Coach Jim Hickey to correct a few things the club identified as issues.

“Hickey wanted to talk to him about ... getting his direction a lot better, using his legs a little bit better,” manager Davey Martinez explained before Irvin returned to the starting mix last week. “So hopefully that [translates] into today’s game and we can see that, but the biggest thing, I’ll talk to him before anything, is to pound the strike zone, throw strike one, and … stay in the moment, just focus on the next pitch, don’t get ahead of yourself.”

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Irvin struggled at the outset in his outing against Miami last week, giving up two hits, two walks, and a run in the first two innings of his outing (over which he threw 49 pitches), but the right-hander settled in to finish up with three scoreless frames (in which he gave up two hits and threw 39 pitches).

“After the first two innings, he threw the ball better, a lot better,” Martinez said in his post game comments. “His direction was good. We talked about keeping his front hip closed a little bit, but he had that downward plane, and he threw the ball a lot better, so that was very encouraging.”

“It’s a lot about the mental side of it,” Irvin said of his in-game adjustments, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “You realize that it’s about competing, no matter who’s in the box.

“You’ve got to compete over the plate and make pitches. I think using this time (off) to really get your mind and focus right prepared yourself to do just that.”

“We talked about it after the game,” Martinez said of the time off and hard work paid off for Irvin, “.... and he said he needed that little bit of a breather. So hopefully we get him on the right track.

“He needs to build off of the last three innings he pitched today, and we’ll see what goes on in five days from now.”

Irvin did build on the solid outing, returning to the mound for yesterday’s game against the D-backs in D.C., and giving up just five hits, a walk, and two runs (one earned) in six innings on the mound in what ended up a 5-3 loss.

The rookie right-hander struck out six, and generated 10 swinging strikes, while recording 20 called strikes (10 with his fastball, which played up to an average of 95.2 MPH (from an average of 93.3) in the 87-pitch appearance.

“I’m really pleased with how Jake Irvin threw the ball today,” his manager said after the loss.

“He was staying in his legs way better than I’ve seen him the whole year. His head was in a good position behind the baseball, everything was clean. It was awesome. This is the Jake Irvin that I saw a couple years ago in Spring Training, and even when he came back towards — which, we know that he will go through a little lull after [Tommy John] surgery [in 2021], but I saw that in Spring Training just for a couple innings that he pitches, but it was awesome to see that today, so we got to continue to build him up, get him to think that that’s who he is and keep working with him, and I can’t say enough about what Hickey has done with him, because we say him down, he missed a start, and this is the stuff that we worked on, and it was awesome to see him come out and execute what we talked about.”


Before Wednesday afternoon’s series finale with St. Louis, Washington made some roster moves, including placing outfielder Victor Robles on the 10-day Injured List with back spasms in the lumbar spine. The move comes shortly after the 26-year-old outfield returned from a month-plus on the IL while he dealt with the back issues.

Robles did not look right the previous night, and his manager said after a loss to the Cardinals he was going to talk to his outfielder and get an honest assessment of where his center fielder was health-wise.

“I talked to him last night,” Martinez said after Robles went back on the IL. “I had to really stress that he needed to be honest with me. And he said he was a bit sore, and that [his back] bothered him running. It doesn’t bother him hitting, it bothers him running. So it’s still the same. It’s a back spasm of the lumbar spine. So we’re going to put him on the IL and we’re going to make sure that we get this right for him before he can come back. It stinks because he was actually playing well. He’s hitting the ball, and he’s been hitting the ball all year, but I can’t watch him do that and all of a sudden he runs into a wall again [as he did on Monday night] and something really, really happens to him. So we’re going to be smart about it. I know he’s a bit frustrated about it, but we’re going to take care of him and make sure that he’s completely healthy.”

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Robles’s running issues were obvious to the Nats’ skipper, and the outfielder said he was having trouble getting going.

“[Just] watching him run, and his first few steps, and that’s what he said. To get going was kind of a little bit of an issue, but once he got going, he felt okay. So we’re going to monitor this thing, get him stronger, let his back calm down a little bit and build some strength, and then go from there.”

Asked if the discomfort was there from the start when Robles returned back on June 16th (after missing 34 games), the manager said, “No.”

“His response was — because I ask him every day — and his response to me was, ‘At certain times I feel it, but not horrible. I feel like I can really play.’ So, last time I talked to him he said it is bothering him. And I said, ‘Where are you at?’ And he said, ‘I can feel it, but I only feel it when I run.’ And he said, ‘The hitting doesn’t bother me.’ So I said, ‘Well, Vic, the big part of this game is you play center field you got to run. So I think it’s smart that we IL you and then get you better and go from there.”

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