NL DIVISION SERIES: NATIONALS VS DODGERS
October 3, 2019
Los Angeles, California – pregame 1
Q. The game against the Brewers, 8th inning, have you ever seen an inning crazier than that?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Yeah, I’ve seen some pretty crazy ones, but that, hey, I like the way it ended up, that’s for sure. But, man, you know what, to play a game like that and play it at home and just watch the fans go crazy, it was almost — so there was two loud noises. There was the base hit from Soto, and I thought, yeah, you know, we’re going to get two run, and we’ll tie the game. And then I heard another roar, because I was looking down on my card because I was trying to figure out the bullpen, and when I look up and I’m going what’s going on, I see the ball rolling in right field, and then I started screaming run, run, run. And then we score the go ahead run and the fans just went — you guys saw all the pictures — but the fans, it was amazing, it was loud, it was electric, so proud of the boys. But it’s a testament to what they had done all year. They never feel like they’re out of any game. They play hard for 27 outs.
Q. Who is your Game 2 starter?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I was going to, I knew that you were going to ask me that question first, and I will tell you now, it’s Stephen Strasburg.
Q. How did you come to that decision?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I talked to him today, this morning, and he said he felt great and he wanted to pitch, so he’s ready to go. I wanted to make sure that he was good to go today. For me it’s like he threw a side of 34 pitches with intensity. That’s the way I looked at it the other day. So he says he feels really good, so he’s ready to go.
Q. So with that in mind does that mean that Anibal Sanchez is available in relief?
DAVE MARTINEZ: No, he’ll be, he’ll be in the bullpen.
Q. Would Stephen, I know you call it just like a heavy bullpen that he did the other day, but would he be limited in any way tomorrow night or it would be just like any other start?
DAVE MARTINEZ: There’s no limitations. He’s going to go out there and pitch and hopefully he gives us seven, eight strong innings.
Q. Was anything you needed to see in the last 24 hours to know?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I just wanted him to go through his routine yesterday and see how he comes out of it today. I spoke to him earlier today and he said he felt great.
Q. Does that mean have you Max lined up for Game 3 after that?
DAVE MARTINEZ: He he’s going to go through his daily routine and we’ll make that announcement here in the next day or so.
Q. It’s 10-year anniversary of Stephen being hailed as the greatest draft prospect ever. He’s had a really strong year, obviously a great outing in the wildcard game. How have you seen him grow and develop and flourish, if you will?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I’ve seen him, hey, this year Stephen, for me, even though he’s had unbelievable years, he’s come into his own, not just as a player but as an individual, as a teammate, he’s all in. I’ve seen a change in him. I’ll just tell you this, we celebrate, we do a lot of dancing, and I would never thought in my mind I would ever see Stephen Strasburg dance. He’s been dancing and his dancing is getting a lot better. And he kind of leads the whole dance party now so it’s kind of fun. But he’s been great. I think that I always mention this because last year he came back off of injury and his VELO wasn’t as good as it used to be and it bothered him a little bit. And we talked a lot about just learning how to pitch. Now you got to learn how to pitch. You’re stuff is so good, you just got to pitch. I think that helped him. September last year it helped him become what he’s doing right now. His routine, I say this all the time about his routine, his routine is unbelievable. I mean he works diligently. Everybody sees him the fifth day, but every day before his start, he works like a madman to get himself ready.
Q. Thinking back a little bit to 2017 when you saw him from the other side and he had those two pretty nasty starts against the Cubs, do you, what do you remember from him that year in that series against you guys?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Yeah, just an unbelievable, fierce competitor. I can remember that one game in Chicago, one of our players came back after he struck out, and he said, this is going to be a long day. I thought, oh, boy, that’s not good. Sure enough, it was. He gave up one run. So but that’s the kind of, I mean that’s the kind of stuff Stephen has. He wants the ball. The big thing now is he wants the ball. I talked to him yesterday when we got in, asked him how he felt. He goes, and I said, well, I would love for you to go Game 2, but if you think you need your five days, I get it, I understand. We can push it back. Today he came in, without hesitation he says, I want the ball. I’m ready to pitch. I feel great.
Q. Did he seek you out for that?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Yeah. He came to Paul. He came to me and said, hey, I’m ready. So he’s got the ball.
Q. Besides just his talent, what about Juan Soto did you see that sort of told you he was ready for the pressure of this moment in the playoffs at such a young age?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I saw him a couple years ago in spring training. We brought him up to play in a couple games as just a backup outfielder. He went and got some at-bats. One particular day we were playing Detroit in spring training, a tough left-handed pitcher. He comes up there, swings at a pitch, looks horrible, and shakes his head, steps out of the batters box, gets back in there. Next pitch was probably the same pitch, and he just stood there and looked at it and didn’t even budge. Shook his head. I thought, oh, you know, next pitch, guy throws a fastball up out over the plate, hits a double off the left center field wall. Then I realized, I said, man, like, I thought Juan Soto, but I said who is this kid right here? I said this kid’s all right. Next time he comes back up, kind of similar, swings at a first pitch breaking ball, steps back, shakes his head. Next pitch, hits a base hit to right field. Got him up for a third at-bat. He breaks a good at-bat, works a walk. And I realized I said this kid’s 19? Like, come on now. But then we get, then with all the injuries we had last year, Riz comes to my office and says, we’re bringing up Soto. And I looked at him and I go, what? He goes, we’re bringing up Soto. He’s going to have to learn how to play sooner or later.
He said don’t worry about his outfield, just, I said he’ll be all right. I said all right, well, we’ll teach him. Comes into my office and says, hey, look this is what, you got to learn how to play the game, every day you’re going to work. And didn’t play the first game. Next day we started him, played against a lefty first at-bat, goes deep the other way left center field, and I thought, okay, you know, this, we’ll just teach him. Honestly, by watching him he taught me a lot about what kind of person he is, how competitive he is. Now he’s grown into that guy where he is a guy for us. He likes the big moments. The 50,000 fans, the big lights, doesn’t bother him a bit. He just loves to play the game. He steps in the batters box, as you all know, we call it the Soto shuffle. But that’s no intention to show anybody up, it’s him getting ready for the next pitch. That’s just who he is. He’s a very intense kid, he loves to hit, he loves to play the game. Besides his hitting, he’s gotten so much better in the outfield, it’s unbelievable. Liked, I looked at his numbers at the end of the year, and he’s probably one of the best left fielders for sure in the National League, based on numbers, based on what I’ve seen. So he’s gotten a lot better.
Q. Could you give us a little bit of a detailed breakdown on Strasburg’s dancing? What you thought was weak earlier in the year and how he’s improved?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I won’t do that now. Maybe later on I’ll do it.
Q. Can you show us?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Hey, you just imagine. But I’m proud of him. I really am. Like I said, he’s become one of those quiet leaders in our clubhouse and he’s just done a tremendous job for us all year.
Q. In the back of your mind with him starting Game 2, having him available for Game 5 on regular rest, is that part of this decision at all or just kind of an added bonus?
DAVE MARTINEZ: No, in my mind I like the way that sets up, yeah. It had a lot to do with it. The biggest thing was I wanted him to come to me and I wanted him to own it. I wasn’t going to pressure him into doing anything because he’s done a lot for us already. We wouldn’t be here right now. He was a big reason why we are here. He came in and gave us three innings, unbelievable innings. So I wanted it to be his idea.
Q. We all saw what Alex Cora did last year with the Red Sox. You, being a manager now in the playoffs of Puerto Rican descent, can you tell us what that means to you to kind of carry that torch?
DAVE MARTINEZ: For me it’s, I’m proud to be of Spanish decent, and I’m proud of the people of Puerto Rico, but also proud and I represent all Latin Americans.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports