With continued poise, rookie Parker earning Martinez's trust

There were two on with two out in the sixth, the Twins having already scored twice in the inning, now sending their seventh batter of the frame to the plate. Mitchell Parker was up to 89 pitches, and Derek Law was warm in the bullpen.

Davey Martinez has made the walk to the mound more often than not in those situations in recent seasons. A fading young starter typically gives way to a more experienced reliever in an attempt to get out of a jam.

This time, though, Martinez decided not to make the move. He decided to let Parker try to pitch himself out of the inning.

“We thought about taking him out, but I wanted to see what he could do,” the Nationals manager said. “We had a big enough lead. I wanted to see him get through it. And he did. He got a big out for us. That was awesome to see.”

Indeed, Parker proceeded to strike out Kyle Farmer on five pitches, the last of them a 94-mph fastball on what proved to be his 94th and final pitch Monday night. The rookie was rewarded for it with his third big league win, the Nats ultimately cruising to a 12-3 victory.

“That’s awesome,” he said. “All I want to do is be able to compete and keep the team in the game and give us the best chance to win. It was a big team win today, so I was proud of that.”

Parker has already been a part of several big wins since joining the Nationals rotation five weeks ago. He won his major league debut at Dodger Stadium. He tossed seven scoreless innings against the Astros. He has yet to give up more than three runs in any of his seven starts. He has been an unexpected breath of fresh air and suddenly a trusted member of a pitching staff that is exceeding expectations.

“How poised he is every outing,” Martinez said when asked what stands out about the 24-year-old. “Even every day, he comes in and does his work, he’s got a good routine. He goes out there and he doesn’t seem to get rattled. Today was a big moment for him.”

Monday’s start got off to a near-perfect start for Parker. He opened his night by striking out Ryan Jeffers on three pitches. Then he struck out Carlos Correa on three pitches. Then he got ahead 0-2 on Manuel Margot.

In the stands, fans recognized what was going on and began to cheer, urging Parker to throw one more strike and complete an immaculate inning. Was the lefty aware what was going on?

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I was.”

Alas, Margot managed to make contact on the ninth pitch, grounding out to short. Parker had to settle for a clean, 1-2-3 top of the first on nothing but strikes, but not an immaculate inning.

“Eh, there’s always going to be more,” he said when asked if he was disappointed by the result.

Parker ultimately allowed three runs to the Twins, including Correa’s two-run homer in the sixth. But he issued only one walk. He struck out seven. And he earned the right to finish his final inning.

“To be able to do it and finish what we started,” he said, “and get the team back in the dugout and score some more runs for us, was awesome.”

Seven starts in, the fifth round 2020 pick from San Jacinto Junior College keeps giving the Nationals reason to want to keep seeing more of him. And the way he has handled each challenge thrown his way convinced his manager Monday night to push him even further.

“I really felt like he could handle it,” Martinez said. “I thought he was a good matchup to get that last hitter. I wanted to get him through that sixth inning. I wanted him to fight and see what he would do. And nothing changed demeanor-wise. He went out there and got a big out for us.”

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