Manager Davey Martinez mentioned Tuesday night after a 3-2 loss that the month of April is finally over and May 1 is upon the Nationals.
Today in preparing for their third game of the series against the Cardinals, Martinez emphasized more the importance of this game after two losses in the series and five losses in their last six games.
“You prepare yourself every day to play, whether it’s April or May going to come out and play,” Martinez said. “The month is over. Here we go, May 1, we got another game, come out there, get prepared and play to compete and try to win a game.”
Last season the club went 20-7 in May to ignite their season after a similar 12-16 April start. Is there a special formula to repeat that kind of month this May of 2019?
“We just got to keep playing,” Martinez said. “There’s been a lot of little nuances. As you know, our starting third baseman is down. Our starting shortstop went down early but we got to keep playing. Our bullpen started out shaky and they’re pitching a lot better. So we just got to get it all together now and just play baseball and play to win.
“These guys come prepared every day. Nobody has got their heads down. They’re playing hard. They feel like they can win every game and they’re playing that way. Now we just got to finish and have one more run than the other guys at the end of the game.”
Right fielder Adam Eaton said that 162 games over six months is a long haul, but saying “It’s early” or “It’s late” isn’t a factor in motivation. He said players have to be ready from the first day of the season. Each game counts the same, whether it’s in April or May or September.
“Every game is big,” Eaton said. “It doesn’t matter where you are going or who you’re playing against. Every game is very crucial. Urgency starts on day one. I think there’s (also) urgency in September. As much as it is a long schedule, every single day matters. Every pitch matters. The good teams come out ready to play every day with a sense of urgency to win that day.”
Eaton said the key to getting on a roll is to play good baseball one day and then look to continue that for a second day. Keep it up and you have a hot streak for a week.
“It’s baseball. It’s a different sport. It’s not where you can go out and dominate like a football player, a basketball player or a hockey player,” Eaton said. “You got to put good weeks together, you got to put good months together, you have to look at it that way, because if you go the opposite way and you see a bad loss (and take it too personally), it just doesn’t work that way. This is a different game.”
Martinez believes that even without Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman for the next week or more, this Nats team can be aggressive because of the players they do have available. Wilmer Difo, Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom have the ability to employ their youthful energy to create offense in different ways. Plus, he sees his pitching starting to build some consistency.
“What I know about our team is we are very athletic,” Martinez said. “We have a mixture of young with veteran guys. Our starting pitchers are really good. Our bullpen is starting to shape up. What I see is a ... when we start playing together, we get our starting pitching, our bullpen is good, now we just got to add on runs.”
That is the emphasis right now. The Nats need to find a way to produce more than one rally a game.
“We seem to come out and score two or three runs early, and then middle innings we just can’t get that one big hit,” Martinez said. “Not to say we haven’t had good at-bats, but I watched the game last night and we hit a couple of balls on the screws and didn’t get nothing for them. We got to add some runs on those middle innings, keep the game going and stay on top.”