This is an afternoon game on a getaway day for both teams. The Washington Nationals need to win this one to salvage a game from this series. The Braves have relied on a grand slam in each game as the difference. Both came with two outs, and yes, sometimes the batter deserves the credit for making good contact. However, meatball pitches are not always converted into home runs, if that was the case, the Nats would have won last night when Victor Robles got a center cut pitch and popped it up with bases loaded in the 8th inning. One pitch usually is not the difference in games, but in the past two games, it certainly has been the case.
Speaking of Robles, his defense has been really good and that is where his value is with this team. But Robles lack of offense and quality contact is disconcerting. He has a career high BABIP of .315 this season, but a -0.6 WPA/Lev index per Baseball Reference meaning when the value of the at-bat is higher, he is more likely than not, to come through. He is shrinking in big situations. He has 1 RBI for the entire season and on pace for 7 for the full season. Can’t you get RBIs with productive outs? Add the baserunning blunders and the horrific 75% caught stealing rate, and you have to wonder if he can turn this around.
With today’s game, manager Dave Martinez becomes the Nats’ longest tenured manager by games played at 411. He was already the longest tenured with three full seasons, and would have broken the games record last year if the season was not shortened to 60 games. We still do not even know how many years Davey is signed up for. He is the only manager in Nats history to lead this franchise to a World Series win, and that will always be part of his legacy and hopefully a statue one day.
More important than tenure is winning percentage for managers. But then again, you can only manage with what you have. Martinez did more with less in 2019 than the two managers who preceded him. Probably the best manager of doing the most with less was Davey Johnson in 2012 and he has the most managerial team wins with 224 compared to Martinez’s 213 career managerial victories. Most likely, Martinez will own that mark of most managerial wins very soon.
On the eve of Martinez setting this new mark, the postgame media call was more probing than normal. The Nats manager was asked why he did not pinch-hit Juan Soto earlier when Robles stepped to the plate with bases loaded.
“I have to be smart with Juan,” Martinez said. “Bases loaded, that’s the situation. But I’m not going to put him in the field right now — not until he tells me he’s ready to go. That’s just the bottom line. … I thought [Robles] had one of the best swings I’ve seen him take all year. He just got underneath it. That’s just the way it is right now, unfortunately.”
My thought early in the game in the fifth inning was: “Why pinch-hit with Yadiel Hernandez in a lefty/lefty with no outs and runners on second and third?” Bunt with Erick Fedde or insert Joe Ross. Hernandez struck out in that spot and with Trea Turner up next he hit a comebacker to the pitcher for a tailor-made doubleplay. Who knows what happens with one out and runners on third and second. In NL baseball, you usually do not want to burn a key pinch-hitter that early.
The Nats have Jon Lester on the mound for his second start of the season, and the Nats will face the Braves struggling lefty Drew Smyly. Of course the Nats need this win ahead of their weekend series against the hot New York Yankees.
This game today is only being televised on YouTube. It is open to everyone for free.
Line-ups subject to change without notice: