Thanks, Nats Fans:
With a split of their doubleheader with Atlanta’s Braves on Sunday, manager Davey Martinez’s ballclub wrapped up the home-half of their 2023 schedule with a 34-47 record in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park this season (vs. a 35-41 record on the road with five games to play).
The Nationals’ 34-47 mark in 81 games in the nation’s capital this season is an improvement over the 26-55 mark the club finished in 2022, and 19 of their wins have come in the second half, after the club got off to a rough start at home this year.
Asked before the first game of two with the Braves on Sunday what was behind those early season struggles at home, Martinez told reporters he thought it was a case of a young team maybe trying too hard in front of their fanbase.
“It’s hard to say,” Martinez said of the slow start in Nationals Park. “It could be just a fluke of things. And it also could be we started off with some young guys and they wanted to really do well in front of our own fans, and they pressed a little bit. And then it takes them a while just to relax and get in that groove. We played a lot better at home for a stretch there. We just got to continue to just get better overall. Whether it’s at home or on the road, just continue to get better every day.”
The Nationals passed their overall win total from 2022 back in mid-August, a positive sign for the rebooting ballclub, and two-plus years into the process, the manager said he wanted to thank fans for sticking with the team as they build back up for what they are hoping will be another competitive run like the one they put together between 2012 and ‘19, when they did finally reach and win the World Series.
“It’s actually kind of sad a little bit,” the sixth-year skipper said of playing their final two games at home this year. “As you know, I’ll miss playing here, playing at home, I love it here, and I love our fans, and I appreciate them very much. They meant a lot to us. I want to thank them: Thank you so much for sticking with us. I know the boys absolutely love playing in front of you guys. We’re going to try to finish strong, but I’ll see you all next year with those big smiles on your faces, and I’ll see most of you guys in Spring Training, because we have a good core of people who show up in West Palm Beach. But I want to say thank you. You guys have been unbelievable again, and looking forward to a really, really good ‘24 season.”
• Check out what GM Mike Rizzo said of the Nationals’ improvements this season, and where they need to continue to make strides — via MASN’s Bobby Blanco (who has done a great job subbing in for Mark Zuckerman and supplementing all of the coverage that Mark provides fans again this season):
The Nats have been careful to not call this season a "success." But as they're one win away from a 15-win improvement from last year, they have called it "encouraging."— Bobby Blanco (@Bobby_Blanco) September 25, 2023
On a significant step forward in the franchise's rebuild. https://t.co/wQH6j8nqBi
Though they pulled out a one-run (3-2) win over the 100-win Braves in the first game of two on Sunday afternoon, the Nationals’ skipper said between the first and second game of the doubleheader he wanted to see his club put together better at-bats with runners in scoring position after the Nats went 2 for 10 w/ RISP and seven left on base in the game.
“We’re not being aggressive right now with guys on base,” Martinez explained, before the club went 3 for 11 with 10 left on base in an 8-5 loss in the nightcap in Nationals Park.
“So we’ve got to think of other ways. We should’ve scored some more runs earlier.
“We’ve got to figure out ways to win games here at the end until we can get that big hit. But they’re doing fine.
“It’s that time of year where you’re not used to playing this much I see some guys getting a little bit tired.”
It’s a teaching moment too, Martinez told reporters, because the club wants to get back to a place where the regular season is just a prelude to the postseason, and an additional month of high-leverage, high-intensity play they hope to be a part of in the near future.
“I tell them, it’s a grind,” Martinez said.
“As I say, ‘Think about playing another month, because we’re going to do that one day, so you’ve got to prepare for it now.’”