In his media availability at 2023’s Winter Meetings early last month, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez was asked if he could recall a favorite story of a time he played a hunch, went against the book, and had it pay off?
“Did you watch the World Series in 2019?” Martinez said with a laugh, pointing to the final stretch of the improbable run from 19-31 to the first World Series championship for a D.C-based team since 1924.
“Yeah, I mean, I can’t just go back and name one,” he said, declining at first to pat himself on the back. “There was a lot of hunches.”
“I’ll tell you what was crazy, you guys probably thought I was crazy, but when we walked [Max] Muncy and we kind of walked the winning run,” Martinez said, referring to Game 2 back in the ‘19 NLDS.
He’d he’d had closer Daniel Hudson issue an intentional walk to the LA Dodgers’ slugger, with a runner on second and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning with a 4-2 lead in Chavez Ravine.
Muncy hit a monster home run off of reliever Sean Doolittle in the bottom of the seventh, to make it a 3-2 game before the Nationals scored an insurance run on an RBI single in the top of the eighth (by Asdrúbal Cabrera).
That night, Martinez told reporters putting the potential tying run on base, and bringing the potential winning run to the plate as he did, was really an easy decision.
“There’s really not much to think about,” he explained.
“Muncy threw — Muncy hit a ball 400 feet against Doo. We just didn’t want that to happen. [Muncy is] a fastball hitter. We know that. Hudson throws fastballs.
“So I liked the other matchup.”
The “other matchup” was Hudson vs Dodgers’ catcher Will Smith, who drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases for Corey Seager, who was 0 for 3 with two Ks to that point in the game, and 1 for 7 to that point in the series, and 0 for 4/1 for 8 after he struck out to end their eight-pitch battle.
Martinez’s club held on for the win in Game 2, evening things up in the best of five series they eventually won with a come-from-behind win in Game 5 in Los Angeles.
Then it was four straight straight over St. Louis, and a series win over Houston in the Fall Classic.
As the manager said, he played a lot of hunches that season. But the one he played in the second game of the NLDS was the first to come to mind.
“I was not going to let that guy [Muncy] beat us again,” Martinez said. “So it worked out.”