STATE OF THE NATIONALS:
Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, in his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning, talked about what has been different for his club now (six straight losses and losses in 8 of 10), as compared to the run they went on in July/August (a 29-25 record overall, 17-11 in August).
“The secret of when we played well in July and August was that our pitching kept us in the game close,” Rizzo told the Junkies, “and then at the end we’d get some timely hits and RBIs and we’d win those games. That’s how we won a majority of our games in August. Starting pitching is the key to this whole thing, I’ve said that for years, and when our starters give us a chance to win we play very, very well and we win our share of games.”
Shaky starting pitching, with some of the young starters as Rizzo noted, reaching inning-levels they haven’t reached before, and a tendency to fall behind early have doomed the Nationals recently.
“To go down 3-4 runs in the first or second inning, it’s tough for any team to come back,” Rizzo explained, “... and we’ve just got to get our starting pitching in order and be able to give us a chance to win those games.”
“The starting pitching is the key to this thing, they need to keep us in the games and give us a chance to grind out some wins,” he added.
As if on cue, Joan Adon took the mound last night in the nation’s capital and gave the Nats five strong, allowing a run in the first, but holding the New York Mets there through four in the second of two in D.C., before allowing a second run in his final inning of work in the top of the fifth.
Adon, 26, walked three batters, struck out six total, and threw 80 pitches overall in the start, 45 for strikes, generating 12 swinging strikes on the night, and seven called strikes.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, with the score 2-0 NY, the home team rallied with hits by Dominic Smith and Jake Alu, an RBI single by Ildemaro Vargas, and a game-tying single by CJ Abrams knotting things up at 2-2 in the second game of the quick, two-game set.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals completed the comeback. Carter Kieboom took a leadoff walk from reliever Phil Bickford, who hit Jake Alu (on an 0-2 pitch in the next at-bat), and after Ildemaro Vargas bunted both runners over, Jacob Young hit a walk-off single back up the middle to bring Kieboom in for a 3-2 win.
THE YOUNG GUN WALKS EM OFF pic.twitter.com/iDJOnN2gSi— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 7, 2023
“It’s awesome. It’s awesome,” Martinez said of Young coming through with the big hit. “And as I always revert back, he’s one of many that are going to come up and help us win games.”
It was a big moment for a young player.
“I’m happy for him, I’m happy for our club. What I always say is these guys don’t give up.
“We’re down, we’re down, we’re down, and they come back and to walk off a team — especially one of our young prospects ... is awesome.”
And Adon’s outing?
“He was good,” Martinez said.
“He limited the damage. It was hot. He got through five innings with 80 pitches, and I thought that was enough as hot as it was, and he kept us in the ballgame.”
The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Nationals, who welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to Washington, D.C. on Friday for the first of three.
“It’s awesome because we’ve been struggling,” Martinez said, “and to see these guys fight back like that is great. We got a day off tomorrow, we got a tough team coming in this weekend, but we get to rest a little bit more and we got to come back Friday and be ready to play.”
GARCÍA AT AAA:
“Before we start talking about this,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters when asked about the club’s decision to send 23-year-old second baseman Luis García to AAA after García played 100 games for the big league club between April and August 2nd, with a .259/.293/.362 line, 13 doubles, four triples, and six homers in 407 plate appearances, in which he drew 21 walks, and struck out 51 times.
“I still strongly believe that Luis is a big part of our future, I really do,” Martinez explained.
“There’s some consistency stuff that we want him to work on. We want him to do it without having to worry about putting up numbers and [things of] that nature. He does a lot of things well. We think he can get better. So this is really about him and the future of our organization moving forward. I really believe Luis here is going to help us win games, and hopefully he’s here when we get a chance to win another championship. He’s 23 years old. I wanted him to go down and work on some things, especially more consistency out of him in his total game, preparation, routine, things of that nature. So he gets a chance to go down there, reset his feet a little bit. As soon as he shows us he can do that, we’ll bring him up. But he’s got a tremendous amount of skill, he really does. He has great bat-to-ball skills, his hands really work defensively. A lot of it, what we want him to get better at is using his lower half both hitting and on the field, so he’s got to work on that stuff while he’s down there.”
García has a .268/.315/.381 line, eight doubles, and a home run in 25 games and 108 PAs at Triple-A Rochester, and GM Mike Rizzo talked with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday about the progress they’ve seen from the infielder since he went down to their top minor league affiliate.
“It was a preparation assignment,” Rizzo told the Junkies. “We wanted him to go down there and learn a routine, and learn how to prepare for each and every game in the big leagues. He went down there and has really tightened up his time in the weight room, his time in the batting cage, his time in the video room. He’s really gotten himself in great shape, he’s lost several pounds, which was one of the things that we wanted him to work on when he got down there. He’s working with our hitting coordinators and our hitting coach down there in Triple-A, and really took a good attitude down there and looked at this as something of an opportunity in a less competitive environment to really get his game under wraps, and he’s done a great job there.”
Rizzo too wanted to be clear the club still thinks of Garcia as part of the future in D.C.
“We’ll see him soon in the big leagues playing second base for us every day because we think that he’s a big part of the future of this thing,” the GM said.
“He’s only 23 years old, and has got a bunch of at-bats at the big league level under his belt with some success, and we just need him to be consistent, be consistent in his game, in his preparation and how he attacks being a major leaguer.”
GORE TO START FRIDAY:
MacKenzie Gore missed a turn in the rotation while on the Bereavement List, but returned to the club on Tuesday. His manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters before the first of two with the New York Mets in D.C. this week, that he wanted to see the southpaw throw a bullpen on Wednesday before making a decision on when he’d slot back into the rotation.
“He’s going to throw a bullpen tomorrow, and if everything goes well, we’ll probably have him start on Friday. But I want to put eyes on him tomorrow, so I’ll go watch his bullpen.”
Apparently, Gore looked good.
“He looked good,” Martinez confirmed before Wednesday’s win over the Mets. “Threw 30 pitches, threw the ball really well. Ball was coming out good. He said he felt really good.
“So he’ll start Friday.”
Martinez and Co. will be watching closely when Gore takes the mound coming off of nine days’ rest.
“I’ll keep an eye on his mechanics and things like that,” Martinez explained. “But he’s — his bullpen, his stuff is electric. It really is. We’ve just got to keep him under control a little bit.
“He gets very emotional. He pitches with a lot of intensity, which I love, but he’s got to be able to control that at times.
“I’m looking forward to watching him go out there and compete.”
Martinez did say he thinks Gore has really come a long way since joining the organization at the trade deadline in 2022 of controlling those emotions on the mound.
“Much better. Much better,” Martinez said. “He could throw a pitch back when I first saw him and just completely lose his mind. Now he understands he needs to get to that next pitch, and he’s still so young, but he’s got to be able to control his emotions, control his heartbeat at times, and he’s done a lot better in high-leverage situations as we all can see. When he stays together and uses his emotions in the right way, man, he can get outs, he can get outs quick, and he can strike guys out. But that’s like I said, he’s young, he’s hungry, he wants to go out there and compete and he wants to help us win a championship, which is all the right things.”
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked about Stephen Strasburg and the soon-to-be-retired pitcher's 7-year contract with @JunkiesRadio this morning, but before he went into talk of Strasburg's deal and the situation going forward Rizzo wanted to set the record straight on Strasburg's career: pic.twitter.com/WjCAuBFW7f— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) September 7, 2023
OH, AND THESE:
The Nationals have informed six pro scouts they will not return, sources tell me and @BrittGhiroli. Those let go: Special asst’s Willie Fraser, John Mirabelli, Mike Pagliarulo, Matt Ruebel, Jon Weil, plus pro scout Jeff Harris. Cuts also made on amateur and int’l side.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 6, 2023
Source: The Nationals have informed four members of their international scouting department that their contracts will not be renewed. The list includes Mike Cadahia, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Pepe Ortega and David Leer (who scouted Aruba).— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) September 6, 2023