Martinez managing bullpen on daily basis to win games

Davey Martinez always lives in the present. He has the mantras to prove it.

Go 1-0 today. Be where your feet are. One pitch, one at-bat, one inning, one game at a time.

And even as the Nationals organization builds toward a bigger picture of success in the future, that’s how the skipper has managed his team to an already higher win total than last year.

That’s how he used his strong, yet exhausted bullpen in last night’s 8-7 win over the Phillies. After the Nats rallied to take a 7-6 lead in the fourth, Martinez used six relievers to close out the last five innings en route to victory. That included his top bullpen guys Jordan Weems, Andrés Machado, Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan, who was pitching for the third straight day.

“Losing's not fun. I don't like losing,” Martinez said during his pregame media session. “So when you feel like you have an opportunity to really win a game, then you take that opportunity. Yesterday was one of those games where we knocked the starter out and we got into the bullpen. I felt like some of our guys were still fresh enough to be able to pitch yesterday. So we went for it and it worked out well. Today might be a different story, but we'll see. We'll play today, Jake Irvin's gonna start for us. I hope he gives us what he's been giving us. And if he does that, then we have another opportunity to go 1-0 today.”

Martinez rarely knows the status of his bullpen arms until the moments leading up to first pitch. But you have to figure some of those relievers won’t be available today with the recent heavy workload, even if the situation to lock down another win presents itself.

“I won't know what our bullpen status is until those guys go out and throw, which they're doing right now,” Martinez said.

But like any competitor, the manager hasn’t been shy in using his most trusted relievers to help seal wins this season, especially when a chance suddenly comes up as it did after last night’s rally.

“When you come back and score that many runs after a team scores that many runs on you, it's easy to say, 'OK, now we got to do something to keep it right here,'” he said. “And hopefully the guys come back and score a couple more runs – yesterday I think we tacked on one more after that – and try to hold it like that until we get to the back end of the bullpen. Guys were good yesterday. But the players are good. We could have gone down six and the next thing all of a sudden come out and it's 1-2-3. But they battle back, and that's one thing I love about this team and I've said all year long. You look back at some of the games we lost, we've never really gotten crushed but a handful of times. We've always been in every game.”

The Nats have been playing in more close games this year. They’re 17-18 in one-run games while going 13-18 in games decided by five or more runs. A trend that has earned this team the nickname “Scrappy Nats.”

“Knowing this group and knowing how to manage this group, you look at that, hey, we're never out of it,” Martinez said. “You got to try to keep it close, as close as possible, and let's see what ends up happening. Yeah, there are days where you got to be smart enough to say, 'hey, I can't use a certain guy out there, I really can't, or we'll end up losing him for a while.' So we got to be smart about that. But there's other qualified guys out there right now that can do the job.”

* Speaking of someone who may be able to help the bullpen soon, Tanner Rainey is back with the Nats after throwing 18 pitches in ⅔ of an inning with Single-A Fredericksburg last night. He will travel with the team to Williamsport for the Little League Classic and then make his next appearance with Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday.

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