Part of the Nationals recent adjustments on offense has been focused on trying to figure out other ways to score besides the long ball.
The home run numbers are down in June. The Nationals 10 homers this month is dead last in the National League. 19-year-old Juan Soto is responsible for four of those 10 homers.
Conversely, the Nats have stolen 16 bases in the month of June, tied with Milwaukee for the most in the senior circuit. Their 59 overall stolen bases are tops in the National League, three better than the Brewers, and 15 better than the third place Padres.
Martinez let the media know he wasn’t pleased with base running mistakes June 13 in their 5-4 comeback win over the Yankees on the road.
Four of the Nats first nine outs in that game were because of decisions made on the base paths: Soto was picked off, Matt Adams was doubled up on a lineout, Adam Eaton was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double and Trea Turner was picked off. All those miscues occurred in the game’s first three innings. Later in that game, Michael A. Taylor was caught stealing. Soto saved that game with two dramatic homers.
“Part of our offense is to create havoc,” Martinez said. “We got guys that can run. I want them to be aggressive, but I want also to be aggressively smart. We cleaned it up a little bit. Because I took it upon myself really to kind of teach them when to go and when not to go and giving them signs. Like yesterday, not letting Turner steal with Soto up. Just letting Soto hit. He could’ve stole (the base) easily. But we told him to just stay there. Let him just hit. It’s just kind of trying to teach them when they should run, when they could run and when not to run.”
Martinez said he has coached them up on this issue the last week and a half. Making sure they understand the fine line between being aggressive but not reckless on the bases.
He said his focus on piecing together a rally is looking to get to third base with less than two outs.
“Just by talking, talking to them. Letting them know situations,” Martinez said. “In spring training, I always told them our objective is to get to third base with less than two outs. If we get to third base with less than two outs we’ll score some runs. They get it. That’s what they’re really trying to do. I don’t want to take away their aggressiveness. But I want them to learn when a good time is and when (it is) not a good time is to go.”
Turner has 20 stolen bases while Taylor has a career-high 21 stolen bases. In Toronto on Sunday, Taylor had a career-high four steal performance and has eight thefts in the month.
“Those guys will steal bases,” Martinez said. “They are going to get picked off because they want to go. That doesn’t bother me that much. It’s just the timing of when to get picked off.” In Thursday’s game, that moment arrived with Turner on base and Soto at the plate. Martinez said that was the time to stay put and let the power bat take over. Soto has the hot hand right now and he was able to deliver the game-changing extra base hit to beat the Orioles.
Martinez hopes that Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and later, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, will be able to be the power bats going that will drive in the likes of Eaton, Taylor and Turner. Getting them to second and third base early in the inning will accelerate the offense the way Martinez had hoped for back in February.