NEW YORK - A day after the Nationals lost a series in Pittsburgh in a 2-0 shutout at the hands of the Pirates, Nationals manager Davey Martinez spoke about the state of his club, which is back at the .500 mark at 46-46, and what this final series before the All-Star break against the Mets means.
“I want them to come out today with a sense of urgency,” Martinez said of Thursday’s game at Citi Field, the first in a four-game series. “Treat these games - we’re going into the All-Star break - but treat these games like, hey, this is Game 1 of a playoff (series). Let’s concentrate on this game today and try to win today.”
One reporter asked what was the level of Martinez’s concern after 92 games. As he has for the first few months of his tenure, Martinez remains optimistic about what this team can do despite a 13-23 stretch.
“I really, honestly, don’t have any concerns. We are a good ball club,” Martinez said. “We just got to start playing consistently better. The signs every day - we’ll hit, score 10 runs one day. One day, we don’t get the pitching. One day, we do get the pitching and don’t score runs. I just want them to play consistently. But I think that this next four days, we come out playing the baseball we are capable of playing and then come back after the All-Star break and start playing good baseball we will be right in the thick of things.”
* Right-hander Stephen Strasburg joined the club and went through a normal bullpen session before today’s game at Citi Field. Strasburg fared well, according to Martinez, who believes his right-hander will need only one more rehab start before returning to the club.
“It went well. He felt pretty good,” Martinez said. “The game plan is to have him start in Potomac (on Sunday). Build him up to about 85 pitches. And then we will see where we are at from there.
“The particulars (of the session) were making sure he was OK after throwing 57 pitches the other day. And he comes back today and he had a good bullpen. He felt good. His arm felt good.”
* Ryan Zimmerman went through several running drills during batting practice, including high knee kicks, knee rotations, 40-yard sprints and running from first base to third base. Martinez said he feels confident Zimmerman could be activated from the disabled list to begin the final stretch of the season beginning July 20.
“He’s actually feeling pretty good,” Martinez said. “He hasn’t been out in rehab assignment because everybody else was at an All-Star break. For me, getting him back and getting him going, hopefully next Friday he’s back with the big league ball club and playing.”
Zimmerman hit a three-run shot, part of a two-homer performance here April 18, in an 11-5 setback to the Mets. That kind of power display is what Martinez knows Zimmerman can bring to the table when he is healthy.
“It means a lot to our lineup, for sure,” Martinez said. “It gives more length to our lineup. You’re talking about a guy where you miss 80 to 100 RBIs. I mean, that’s a lot. Getting him back for the second half will be awesome. I look forward to having him back.”
* Michael A. Taylor makes his first start since July 7 tonight. Taylor will bat seventh and play center field.
Martinez said Taylor means a lot to the club, but again reminded everyone that with Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and Brian Goodwin on the roster, there just isn’t enough playing time to go around for everyone. But with how good Taylor had been recently, it is surprising he hasn’t been used that much in recent weeks. Taylor is hitting .333 over the last 28 days, with 18 hits, two doubles, six stolen bases and five RBIs, but only 59 plate appearances.
“I felt like Michael is a good matchup today and he means a lot to this ball club, as you know,” Martinez said. “We got five really good outfielders, Goodwin included. Goodwin has played well off the bench. You might not play every day, but you are going to get a chance to play do things to help us win. He understands that. Every time I put him in, I expect him to do what he does and that’s play good defense, get big hits for us, steal bases when he can.”
* Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Jacob deGrom should be the National League starter for Tuesday’s 89th All-Star Game in Nationals Park.
Martinez was asked the same question and his answer came as no surprise: “I don’t want to be biased, but Max Scherzer, of course. Knowing him, he’ll probably want to pitch the whole game. But that’s not going to happen. I can assure you of that. I really feel like he deserves to pitch, start the game.”