Washington Nationals: Dave Martinez mismanages frustrating loss
By Drew Douglas
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez had a regrettable game, en route to a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In Dave Martinez, the Washington Nationals have a rookie manager. He is a veteran in the baseball community, having played and coached professionally for over two decades, but he has never managed.
Early in 2018, this has been painfully obvious at times. Unfortunately, Martinez’s inexperience played a large role in the Nats’ 4-3 loss on Saturday afternoon.
Martinez’s first questionable decision came in the bottom of the fifth, when he let Jeremy Hellickson hit for himself with a runner at third and one out. Hellickson had only thrown 51 pitches, so the case could be made for him to remain in the game, but he had already made two trips through the Diamondbacks’ lineup.
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Throughout his career, Hellickson has shown a tendency to struggle while facing the opposing lineup for the third time. He has only made a handful of starts for the Nats, but that trend has remained true.
Hellickson was allowed to hit for himself and grounded out weakly for the second out. By the end of the inning, the runner was stranded at third base.
Then, Hellickson gave up a game-tying home run to begin the sixth. After just two batters in the sixth, his day was done.
If Martinez had pinch-hit for Hellickson, the Nats may have added an insurance run. Instead, they stranded the runner at third and immediately lost the lead.
An inning later, Pedro Severino and Wilmer Difo begin the seventh with back-to-back singles. Trea Turner stepped to the plate with runners at first and second with no outs, an obvious bunting situation.
Turner could have bunted for a hit towards third, and it would have been a sacrifice in the worst case scenario. Instead, he swung away and grounded into a rally-killing double play.
Unfortunately, Martinez also mismanaged the bullpen.
In the ninth inning of a tie game, Martinez called upon Sean Doolittle. The move made some sense, as it was the ninth inning, but the bottom of Arizona’s lineup was due up. Instead of facing exceptionally dangerous hitters, Doolittle pitched against Christian Walker, Ketel Marte, and John Ryan Murphy.
If Martinez would have saved Doolittle for a higher-leverage situation, the Nats may have been able to avoid the disastrous tenth inning.
Finally, Martinez turned to Austin Adams in relief of Sammy Solis in the tenth. The left-handed Jarrod Dyson was due up for Arizona, which was a good matchup for Solis, but Martinez thought that Chris Owings had been announced as the pinch-hitter.
Owings was in the on-deck circle, but had not yet been announced. All of a sudden, Dyson was able to remain in the game to hit against the right-handed Adams.
All things considered, Martinez’s blunders may not have cost the Nats the game. They did not help, but the players have to produce as well. Martinez also deserves credit for moving Ryan Zimmerman, who homered and doubled, into the two-hole.
It is also worth noting that the Nats are suffering from a plethora of injuries. When key players, such as Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, and Daniel Murphy, return, Martinez will naturally look better.
Next: Nats must improve with runners in scoring position
Martinez is a rookie manager learning on the fly in a high-pressure situation. This has been obvious early in the season, but he will improve as the season progresses.