“You know, it’s huge, but it didn’t just start like miraculously. This has been something that’s been building since the end of May. I mean, we had our backs against the wall, and they stuck with it, and they believed in each other, and they believed that they were going to bounce back and this thing was going to turn around.” –Dave Martinez

October 14, 2019

Dave Martinez

Washington D.C. – postgame 3

Nationals 8, Cardinals 1

Q. Davey, with what Stras was able to do tonight and you’ve been around the game a long time, have you ever seen three as dominant a pitching performance in the postseason as you’ve gotten in all three of these games so far?
DAVE MARTINEZ: No, these guys, they started with Sanchez, Scherzer, and now tonight Stras. They’re feeding off each other, they really are, and it’s fun to watch.

Q. What do you mean by that, Dave, about feeding off each other as pitchers? We hear hitting is contagious. How do starters do that?
DAVE MARTINEZ: They sit there, and they watch, and they talk, and they communicate, and they get together, and they’re going over what they’ve done that helped them get successful that day. Then the next guy comes up. Even though Scherzer and Stras are hard, and Sanchez, they watch. They watch videos, and then they go out and they compete. They compete every day, and they compete amongst themselves. Like I said, it’s a lot of fun.

Q. So do you mean pregame in terms of the video study, they do it as a group kind of thing?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Yeah, they sit down, and they communicate, yeah. This is an unbelievably close group of guys, and they’re all — you know, they pull for each other. They all stand there and watch the first pitch. They don’t miss each other’s first pitch of the game, and they’re watching everything, and they’re learning from one another.

Q. That’s unique, isn’t it?
DAVE MARTINEZ: These guys — like I said, these guys, they’ve been good all year, and they’ve been behind each other all year, and when one guy seems to fail, I’ve never heard — they all congregate again, and they sit, and they get right back after it, and they pick him up. They said, here we go. Next start, we’re right there. Here we go. It’s been a lot of fun.

Q. Hey, Davey, your team obviously struggled early this year. Right now, they’re probably playing as confidently as they have all year. How important is confidence to a team’s success? And how confident are you that you can wrap up this series and go on to win a World Series?
DAVE MARTINEZ: You know, it’s huge, but it didn’t just start like miraculously. This has been something that’s been building since the end of May. I mean, we had our backs against the wall, and they stuck with it, and they believed in each other, and they believed that they were going to bounce back and this thing was going to turn around.

I’ve said it before, we’ve been playing playoff games since then. We had to play really good to come back and do the things we’ve done, and now, in September, they believed that they can do this, and they’re going out there, and they’re not taking anything for granted, and they’re playing really hard, and they’re playing to win one game every day. The big message, I say it every day, is to go 1-0 every day, and they believe that.

Q. At the pregame press conference, everybody’s asking Patrick Corbin about him relieving. It was obviously your idea to bring starters as relievers. Why did you decide to do that, and how does that affect the game?
DAVE MARTINEZ: For me, obviously, Patrick is going to start tomorrow. The other day when I put him in to face one-hitter, I went to go get him, and he actually made a comment about, you know, I could probably be a left-on-left guy, and I said, not right now you’re not. So just get your rest and be ready to pitch Game 4. And he’s ready.

But these guys, like I said, they get it. They want to do whatever they can to help us win. They believe in each other. I mean, I’ve said this before, they’re all in. They all care for each other. It’s one big family in there, and they just want to win every day.

Q. Davey, you’ve done a remarkable job of trying to keep Howie healthy all year and Zim, as well. Of course, Zim was on the IL with the foot problem, but to have both of them come up so huge in this game and Howie with three doubles tonight and three RBIs, can you just speak to what that means to the middle of that lineup?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Big. It’s huge for us. Him and Zim are both playing really well, on both sides of the ball. I know Howie’s hitting. He had his struggles in the Dodgers series, and he made a pretty good play the other day at second base. We’re getting professional at-bats from those guys. Everybody says they’re older, and I just look at him as just guys who have been around and veteran guys that have stepped up to the moment, and they’re a big reason why we’re here. Having those two guys healthy helps us out a lot.

Q. Being where he is in his career, do you get a sense of how badly Howie wants this?
DAVE MARTINEZ: He wants it, and the rest of his teammates feed off of that, and they see it. We’re all big fans of Howie. Every one of us in that clubhouse, and what he does on the field, off the field. I mean, he’s been that quiet leader for us all year long.

Q. Davey, all season long you’ve told the team, we just have to go 1-0 today, 1-0 today, and you guys have done that pretty consistently. Do you kind of allow yourself and the guys to start thinking, well, if we go 1-0 tomorrow, we go to the World Series. Do you allow yourselves to start thinking ahead of it or still 1-0?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Honestly, and I mean this sincerely, I have not thought about it yet. I’m worried about just getting through tomorrow, go 1-0 tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens then. Yeah, I never — I thought about lineups and stuff for tomorrow, and we know Pat’s going. I like the fact that we didn’t have to use Huddy or Doo today, so that was nice. So we’re prepared for tomorrow.

Q. That last inning mound conversation with Strasburg, what did he say to you, and what did you say to him?
DAVE MARTINEZ: He didn’t want to come out of the game. I was trying to explain to him, hey, you just grabbed your hamstring, so there’s a little concern. He said, no, I cramped up. It’s fine. I always cramp up. He said, I’m staying in the game. I want to finish this inning. I said, you sure you’re all right? He said, I’m in the game! And I looked at Suzuki, and Suzuki said, let him finish. I said, hey, you don’t have to twist my arm. You’re throwing the ball good, but I want to make sure you’re okay, and he was good. He finished the inning strong.

Q. There’s obviously a lot that was working for Strasburg tonight, but with his change-up specifically, what did you see there that makes that so impossible to hit?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I talked about this earlier with his change-up. For me, anybody that has a good change-up, their arm action is really good, and his was really good today. He has the same tempo as he does with his fastball, and the ball at the end just disappears, and he was really good. But I think, honestly, what made it really good today was his fastball, utilizing his fastball at the right moment made his change-up that much better.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

“We’ve got to figure out a way to create some offense early in the game and be able to hold it there. It’s the first time our pitching hasn’t been able to contain this offense. I’m confident we’ll be able to do that tomorrow.” — Mike Shildt

October 14, 2019

Mike Shildt

Washington D.C. – postgame 3

Nationals 8, Cardinals 1

Q. Mike, with you all in the situation you find yourselves in now, what’s the first thing you have to do to get things pointed back in the direction you want?
MIKE SHILDT: We’ve got to get the lead. We’ve got to get a lead at some point in this series. Hard to win a game if you can’t get a lead. We’ve got to figure out a way to create some offense early in the game and be able to hold it there. It’s the first time our pitching hasn’t been able to contain this offense. I’m confident we’ll be able to do that tomorrow.

We’ve got to play with a lead.

Q. Mike, what was your view of Marcell Ozuna’s attempt to make the sliding catch? Did you see that as kind of the full crumb of the game because, obviously, three runs scored after that, but Jack might have gone deep or you might not have had to go as deep in the bullpen.
MIKE SHILDT: It’s not an easy play any time you have to leave your feet and go a distance and slide. It’s a play that he’s clearly capable of making, but it’s not a play you absolutely expect somebody to make. There’s a lot of other plays in the game that were a factor that I can’t single that out as being the full crumb that led to the rest of the game.

Q. You mentioned some of those other plays. It seemed like — is it fair to say that a lot of the reasons you guys are here, the things you did right all over the course of the season seemed to get away from you tonight — base running, some defensive plays that might have been made in the past. It seemed like the offense we’ve talked a lot about, but the things that sustained the offense when it wasn’t coming through gave way a little bit?
MIKE SHILDT: It wasn’t our cleanest game, in some of those regard, not a lot of opportunities. Got called off at second base trying to move a runner. I think that’s what you’re alluding to. Could have gotten the lead at that point, trying to make a play. Not our cleanest game. Some nice plays defensively, no errors. Like you said, the Ozuna play, but, again, that’s not exactly a play you can expect a guy to make when he leaves his feet.

Just not a lot of opportunities to do as much. We had more tonight, some guys out there, and weren’t able to get that big hit. Took better at-bats. Their guy was good again.

We’ve just got to be — we haven’t been able to play our brand of baseball in full. We haven’t been able to get in rhythm or sync, but we still have more baseball to play.

Q. Can you pinpoint the reason why you say that about not being able to find the rhythm or be in sync? Can you pinpoint the reason?
MIKE SHILDT: It’s a combination. This is a group that right now is pitching very, very well. The other side’s trying, too. We’re in a highly competitive series, and they’ve done a really good job of being able to hold us off. They’ve been pitching really, really well. The length of their lineup showed up tonight and weren’t able to contain that. We’ve just got to be able to create more opportunities and put the pressure on them a little bit more. We just haven’t been able to get that.

They’ve had a lot to say about that. They’ve done a nice job. They played good baseball.

Q. What did you see with Jack in the four innings he got?
MIKE SHILDT: Stuff was great early, crisp, a couple ground ball hits, the play that Mark alluded to. Ground ball, bunt him over, ground ball, base hit, 1-0, tough play, and it’s 2-0. Then we had an open base, like the ability — you know, pick your poison. We could have put Kendrick on right there, but you get a guy in Zimmerman swinging the bat well right behind him, so didn’t make a pitch there. That was probably the biggest part of that was that pitch at that moment.

But I thought Jack was good. It’s 4-0, and unfortunately, we’ve got to hit for him.

Q. There’s only been one team who overcame this deficit that you’re in right now. Do you draw on that, or is it all about tomorrow for you right now?
MIKE SHILDT: It’s all about tomorrow. I can tell you this, and it’s appropriate for the area we’re at. There is no concession speech being written. This is a team that can absolutely win four games in a row, and clearly we have to start tomorrow, and we’ve got to get after it, which we will, and we have, but anybody that’s seen this team, we’re obviously clearly in a tough spot. There is precedent for it, but this team has created its own precedent this year a lot in a lot of things we’ve done throughout the course of this year.

So take care of business tomorrow, and then who knows, right? This group will bite, scratch, and claw. We’re going to figure out a way to win tomorrow.

Q. Specifically to the top of the lineup, you made some changes today and got results there in the middle. But when you don’t have those guys on, what are you seeing from those top three on a night like tonight other than just great pitching?
MIKE SHILDT: Great pitching and just weren’t able to put — string together the consistent at-bats we want. Again, a combination of both. We can’t and won’t pin it on anybody, but we need to get that production from the top. We got it through the middle. Jos�y rewarded and earned his start. We’ll get another one. Yadi takes good at-bats. Like the bats Paulie took, as well. Looked good. So we just have to be able to — and Ozuna, of course.

It happens like this, you know. If we could explain it, if we knew exactly what it was, we’d do it. Clearly, it’s not for a lack of effort or comprehension, but we’ve got to figure out a way to get it done.

Q. Mike, obviously, they’ve had terrific starting pitching, but are you shocked, surprised by just how little offensive production your team’s had?
MIKE SHILDT: Listen, we know — we played a series with them. You play these guys with that pitching, you’re going to be in for typically a low-scoring situation, but I’ve got to say this. As we tip our hat, we’ve also got to say that we didn’t expect to be — have scored two runs in three games by any stretch of the imagination. Like I said, we respect our opponent. These guys have done a great job of pitching. They’ve had a good game plan. They’ve executed their game plan, but by no means did we have anywhere close to the expectation that we would be pretty much shut down. Like I said, it can turn on a dime.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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Third inning:

Victor Robles singles.

Stephen Strasburg sacrifices Robles to second.

Trea Turner strikes out.

Adam Eaton singles. Robles scores. 1-0.

Anthony Rendon doubles to left n a sliding drop by Marcel Ozuna. Eaton scores. Eaton scores. 2-0.

Juan Soto walks.

Wild pitch by Jack Flaherty. Rendon to third, Soto to second.

Howie Kendrick doubles. Rendon scores. Soto scores. 4-0.

Ryan Zimmerman grounds out to second.

Fifth inning:

Tyler Webb replaces Flaherty

Eaton grounds out to shortstop.

Rendon singles.

Soto flies out to left.

John Rebbia replaces Webb.

Kendrick doubles. Rendon scores. 5-0.

Zimmerman doubles. Kendrick scores. 6-0.

Sixth inning:

Robles homers to center. 7-0.

Strasburg strikes out.

Genesis Cabrera replaces Brebbia.

Trea Turner grounds out to pitcher.

Eaton flies out to center.

“It’s a really greater good mentality. I appreciate and have conversations almost daily or consistently with our guys about, if something’s going to be out of the ordinary with their role, so they can hear from me and the explanation. Always welcome mostly the give-and-take and their retort to it. The guys all want to play, but they’re all respectful of being good teammates and being team-first kind of guys. Jose (Martinez) has been a great example of all of that.” –Mike Shildt

Mike Shildt

Washington D.C. – pregame 3

Q. Mike, yesterday you gave a lot of thought to — or you talked about the lineup and spoke a lot about loyalty. Can you walk us through then the decision to make a change today and what (Jose) Martinez brings to the lineup?
MIKE SHILDT: Josey has just had good at-bats, putting good swings on the baseball. Just looking to mix it up a bit, nothing too crazy, obviously. But Josey’s earned the opportunity to get in there and create some length in the lineup and in a spot where guys are in doing their part front of him and he can do some damage.

Q. Mike, what was the decision for (Matt) Carpenter to be the one that goes out?
MIKE SHILDT: Strasburg is not an overly splitty guy. He’s actually got a tinge towards reverse split, so a combination of things. But really, I had a conversation with Carp. He was great. He knows he’s done a great job for us off the bench in September, and he’s got some big hits for us in our run here, as well. He’s a team first guy. Just the opportunity for Josey to get in there made some sense and bring Carpenter, have him available off the bench for a double switch or pinch-hit.

Q. This is a arguably a cheesy question, but I might be able to get a good quote out of it. When you wake up on the mornings of Jack Flaherty’s starts, do you have a moment that hits you and you go Jack’s going tonight?
MIKE SHILDT: That’s a good question. I actually feel that way about all of our guys. I’m optimistic. We’re here for a reason. It’s been a collaborative effort. You look up, you’re down two, it’s not the best place to be, and you’re like, okay, we’ve got Jack going. All right. So it’s good to have that guy that is your — has been the guy that’s been the best pitcher in baseball in the second half. That’s really inarguable. It’s good to know he’s toeing the rubber for you tonight.

Q. Along those lines, for those of us who haven’t seen Flaherty’s second half, what has he done well, and how has he developed? What has made him the best pitcher in baseball during that time?
MIKE SHILDT: He’s just put everything together. There’s nothing that magically appeared. For 23, it’s pretty special. Me and Commish were talking about it yesterday, how many aces there were at that age. He probably had more perspective on that than I would, quite honestly, but the thing about Jack, he has all these amazing skill sets, first of all. I said this before the season started, and it rings true.

First of all, he’s physically gifted. He’s got a great build for it. He’s got a tremendous delivery that he works really consciously on, and then he’s got plus pitches. He’s got command of his fastball. He’s got a really, really good slider. His other pitches have developed as well with his curveball and his change-up. He’s got a tremendous desire to be elite and sincere about it in every aspect, whether it be his working out or whether it be his in-between start routine, the growing understanding of how to game plan for opposing hitters.

Then there’s the experience that comes with actually pitching in games, seeing what that looks like and getting a feel and when to back off and when to push and how to handle different situations and how to channel that competitive spirit that Jack clearly has.

I also appreciate the fact that Jack — and I love this about people in general — because it accelerates your curve. People talk about experience, and one of the reasons we have a 23-year-old guy in Jack Flaherty that’s an ace and the best pitcher in baseball in the second half is the fact that he’s developed and learned from his own experience, and he’s also been conscious about other experiences — Bob Gibson, Chris Carpenter, Waino, et cetera, and really, it’s helped him evolve. You put all that together, and sometimes it starts to kind of click in, and for Jack it has.

I’m not surprised, but very grateful.

Q. Mike, is there anything you could put your finger on on why the offense has had its ups and downs this season?
MIKE SHILDT: Yeah, that’s a great question, Pedro. It’s really — it really is. We’ve worked to be more consistent. I feel comfortable and confident that we have been. And you look at inconsistency, you look at how long those last. April was a very dominant month for us offensively, which allowed us to have the best record in baseball, you know, March, April. Then May was — I could call it maddening May. It just wasn’t — our offense wasn’t consistent in May for a long period of time, and then June came — I won’t go through the whole calendar for you. So don’t worry about it. (Laughter).

But the point I’m getting at is the inconsistencies became less frequent and not as long, which actually gives you and me optimism to say that now we are more consistent, which allowed us to be able to be in the position we are and to be one of the best second half teams in baseball and put us in this position.

So while we have been inconsistent in a total look at it, the consistency has actually increased, and that — those adjustments have been quicker, and that understanding has been a little more quicker. Some of it’s team conceptual, and some of it’s individual approach, and that could be mental or physical.

So the identification is there. The clarity is there. I think in the case of the last couple games, the pitching has had as much to do with that as anything else. I do feel like we’ve got more clarity on what that looks like individually and collectively and being able to be quicker to adjust to that. And the reality is most every team is going to deal with the ebb and flow of that. It’s the hardest thing to do in baseball and probably the hardest thing to do in sports. But that’s a good question.

Q. Mike, with the choice to put Jose today in the lineup, the corollary that comes with that is often the question about defense. Was there any consideration about maybe getting Harrison in there as well to kind of balance that, or do you need the offense?
MIKE SHILDT: Yeah, this is the question, and I kind of knew it was coming. When I look at lineups, I look at them holistically, and one of the things we’ve done really well is we play really, really good defense. That’s a big pillar of what we do and how we got here. That’s probably one of the reasons — I don’t know if — what the right, appropriate term for how I respond to all the lineup questions because they are driven offensively, and then you make a change, and rightfully so, people say now what are you going to do defensively? I’d love to have it all, you know?

And typically, I, we make the lineup, but we do it internally. I make that determination based on how everything else is going, but you can’t — and usually I err on the side of pitching and defense, and we’ll figure out a way. We talked about how we compete in a lot of different areas, how we’re able to win games, which we’ve demonstrated as well as anybody, I feel like, and then just looked up after a couple games. Again, tip your hat to the pitching, but we have to give up something at this point.

Josey is very capable of playing in the outfield. It’s not like he’s not, but clearly, we’re going to go with a little more offense today and look to get the lead, manage the game. As far as getting Harrison out there, we have regulars for a reason, and Harrison’s been a regular, but you’re looking for offense. So I understand the question, but we’ll play. We’ll get the lead, and we’ll adjust from there.

Q. With Hudson pitching tomorrow, he led the league in walks, but did you find that recently he’s had better command, and do you find that process will be even better next year, the second year he’ll be a starter?
MIKE SHILDT: I do. I’m glad you brought that up because I was looking at that actually recently. He has improved as the season has gone, especially against the lefties. So his numbers are improving. Much more optimistic, and, again, not surprising. Kind of alluding to a little bit of a similar answer to the Jack question. It’s evolution. You’ve got a very conscientious, talented guy that can figure things out, and experience usually lends itself to that for guys that have that ilk. So he has improved, and very excited about that. I do think it wins for him being able to continue to move forward, only going to get better.

Q. As a followup on Jack, was there any specific start in the second half when you realized this was a different pitcher than the first half? Part two, as a young guy, you’ve had no issues pushing him past 100 pitches. Do you feel like he’s getting stronger down the stretch here?
MIKE SHILDT: I do. So to the first question, I didn’t say — it clicked for Jack. Not that his first half wasn’t — didn’t have some success. Clearly, he’s had some success. But the San Francisco game the day before the All-Star break was magnificent, and you just saw in him, at least I did, just — and I use the term, and I use it a lot since then. Now it’s more normalized for him, just being in control. Just to control everything he was doing, all aspects of pitching. So that was probably the watershed moment for me that I thought he built on.

Then as far as the pitch count goes, pitch counts are really interesting. We know we use 100 as the barometer now. I don’t know when it came into vogue, but it has. I will say this. A couple things that have allowed us to put Jack in this position. First of all, Jack. Jack is, like a lot of our guys, very, very conscientious about how he takes care of himself, how he recovers. Also, I call him Mad Dog for this rightfully. Like Max, our pitching coach — who had a couple of hole-in-ones today, by the way. Hit two hole-in-ones in the same round. A 1 in 67 million chance and only three times on the PGA TOUR. He had two today.

Q. Where?
MIKE SHILDT: Army-Navy course.

Q. Did you witness it yourself?
MIKE SHILDT: I did not. Mo did. Mo witnessed it.

Q. (No microphone)?
MIKE SHILDT: No, this was an actual — I figured I’d segue it in.

Q. (No microphone)? The lineup?
MIKE SHILDT: How do you know he didn’t, Frank? But he did. Anyway, Mad Dog’s done a great job outside of his sixth hole-in-one today, of making sure Spring Training looked well, spacing guys out, and did a nice job of appropriately skipping guys or giving the guys an extra day during the course of the season. We picked our spots where we would give Jack that extra day, but also, in competition, if we felt like — clearly, we want to win every game, but if we could take an inning off Jack here and there, we took it off him.

And you look at the pitch counts, and stress is a big important part of that. A lot of the conversations I’ve had with pitchers and pitching coaches and physical therapists and people like that for years is the stress level that is on pitchers, and Jack just hadn’t had a lot of stress. You talk to some guys, they throw 72 pitches in 3 2/3, and they throw 115, and they feel much better after the 115 with limited stress. If Jack was laboring any of those starts or struggling or coming out of his mechanics, then we would do something different. He hasn’t had a lot of stress, big, strong kid, and he’s in a good position to pitch.

Q. As you saw in Game 2 and you saw in the NLDS, the Nats have not hesitated to use their starters as relief pitchers. How does it affect your strategy knowing you might get a front line starter in the sixth, seventh, or eighth inning rather than a third or fourth string reliever?
MIKE SHILDT: We’re always going to game plan for other team’s starters. So we know what we’re going to get. We’re not going to — I would certainly hope, and I’d be surprised — never say never, but we’re not going to get surprised, hopefully, by anything that comes at us out of the bullpen. So we’re aware that those gentlemen are available and ready to pitch. We’ve got an idea what we want to do and how we want to do it. So we just compete with who comes in.

Q. Mike, you guys have leaned on different guys at different times throughout the season. Jose set a pretty good example for the group as to when it’s not his time to start, being a good teammate. Curious what you have seen in him this season that has put him in this opportunity to get this chance, and also how he responded when you told him he was going to be in there today.
MIKE SHILDT: Josey is really indicative of our entire team. It’s a really greater good mentality. I appreciate and have conversations almost daily or consistently with our guys about, if something’s going to be out of the ordinary with their role, so they can hear from me and the explanation. Always welcome mostly the give-and-take and their retort to it. The guys all want to play, but they’re all respectful of being good teammates and being team-first kind of guys. Jose has been a great example of all of that. Multiple conversations, he understands; I’ll be ready.

People can tell you I’ll be ready, I’ll accept it, but he actually does. He does with a good attitude. He brings good energy. He gets the bench Mafia thing going and keeps those guys engaged. As far as him being in the lineup, he’s ready to go.

Q. Mike, what is it you’ve seen in Dexter’s at-bats of late that gives you continued confidence in him in that leadoff spot for you guys?
MIKE SHILDT: The walk to Strasburg, the bats in Atlanta in Game 5, the leadoff walk against Foltynewicz, tough at-bat, grounded out, that gives you confidence. Then comes up right-handed, hits a double down the line off Fried who had a nice series and does a nice job. Then there’s been a lot of deep counts with Dext. It’s not like he’s having one, two, three, and see you later. He’s having deeper counts, which usually speaks well, and he’s gotten some full count pitches that are tough. Stras the other day threw three or four different pitches with the four or five different counts. The full count is a tough recipe for hitting.

Then the walk, I believe, in the sixth, was a good indicator. And not to be out of school, but just a conversation with Dext. Like I have with guys like where are you? How are you feeling? And knowing that he’s going to shoot it straight, and he’s like I’m in a good spot. He came in yesterday, got good work in. Seeing the ball, my hands are in a good spot. You know, when you have guys that have played in this league for 11 years that you’ve had those conversations with that have also been us, like, man, I’m just not myself right now. All right. Let’s give you a day. Let’s get some work in, and then comes back.

When you have those conversation, you trust guys. This group’s been together since February, and it’s a very close group that’s very open with conversation, and like I say, very common goal oriented. When a guy’s having those kind of at-bats and feels like he’s in a good spot and has been a big catalyst for us to be where we’re at, it’s really a pretty easy decision.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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“Everybody’s got to participate. It takes more than 25 guys, honestly, to win the championship. Everybody we brought up at some capacity helped us win a game or two. So I’m proud of these guys sticking together. The biggest thing is that they play together.” Dave Martinez

October 14, 2019

Dave Martinez

Washington D.C. – pregame 3

Q. Davey, what did you have to see from Victor either yesterday or this morning to make sure he could get back in there today?
DAVE MARTINEZ: He ran the bases today and ran them full tilt. So he looked really good. We wanted him to hit on the field. He couldn’t do that, obviously, because it started pouring down rain, but he hit in the cage, took some good swings. He’s raring to go. Excited to be back on the field.

Q. During the season, you talked a lot about managing guys’ workloads, whether it was Howie, Zim, some of the older guys. In the postseason, how much of a focus is it to put your best players in the best spots no matter what. Is that how you’re approaching it?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Right now, yeah. The biggest thing is the days off. We’ve had days off in between. Moving forward, we’ve got three games in a row, and this is all based on conversations with Howie, Zim. Right now, they’re playing well. They’re healthy. We’re just going to keep it going.

Q. You’ve also frequently mentioned conversations you have day-to-day with those guys. How much does strength staff come in, medical? Do you map out plans with them as well, or is it just the players?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Absolutely, absolutely. The biggest thing with Victor — Michael’s played really, really well, but with Victor, it’s getting him loose and in the game and letting him play as opposed to keeping him on the bench, trying to get him loose again. I talked to the training staff about that and felt that he should just get loose and get in the game. If something happens, Michael is ready to play.

Q. Like you said, this is the first time you might be playing three days in a row in the postseason. So when it comes to your bullpen, do you have to approach these any differently and not know that you can ride Doolittle and Hudson quite to the extent you have at this point?
DAVE MARTINEZ: We’ll just have to see how the game plays out today, tomorrow. These guys, this is based on — they come in every day, they throw, and after that, I have a conversation with them to see where they’re at. They know what we’re playing for, so these games are different than the regular season. If they’re available and we have a chance to close out a game, I’m sure they’re going to want the ball.

Q. Davey, along the lines of Jesse’s question, you have six guys on the bench tonight that have all made postseason starts before this year. How have you gotten those guys to buy in to a team-first mentality?
DAVE MARTINEZ: That didn’t take much. They’re all about the team. They really are. You listen to these guys pulling for each other day in and day out, they’ve done that all year. When they’re called upon, they’re ready.

Matt Adams the other day, huge pinch-hit. Hasn’t really played much or done much, but he gets it, and he went in there and had a big hit for us.

Q. Davey, you were a major league hitter. Stephen Strasburg’s change-up, how would you approach that, that one pitch? Has it ever made you sit in the dugout and go, what was that?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I often say to myself when he throws it, I’m glad I’m not playing anymore because it would be frustrating to hit, but it’s tough. I look at it, he’s got two different ones. One breaks into righties and one just goes straight down. It’s really tough. He throws it — what makes a good change-up is your arm action, and he’s got really good arm action.

Q. Davey, obviously, this staff is unique in terms of its makeup, but when you go back and think about the first 50 games and how bad it was, how worse would it have been without these — without your four starters being able to go the way that they’ve gone all year?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Honestly, I don’t want to think about it. We’re fortunate that these guys are really good, four of those guys, and even when we had to mix in a fifth starter, those guys pitched big games for us — Joe, Fedde, Voth — they all did what we needed them to do. So life without them would definitely not be as fun. I’m just glad they’re part of this and I’m part of them.

Q. You’ve also said — I mean, you haven’t said this, but we’ve seen bullpenning become a thing the last couple years on several staffs. This staff kind of goes against the grain. Is it simply the talent level of these guys, or do you think it’s more this is what this organization simply thinks about starters vis-a-vis the bullpen?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I think our starters, as you know, we went out and got another starter last year with Corbin. We believe in starting pitching. That’s where it all starts. Rizz did a great job of getting the guys we have now. They keep us in ball games. That’s how it all starts. Hopefully today, Stephen goes out today and does what he’s been doing all year and gives us a quality start.

Q. Davey, you’ve talked about liking how Tanner Rainey is throwing the last month or so. It seems like his command is getting a litter better. What would you attribute this last month that he’s on?
DAVE MARTINEZ: One is confidence, and one is really not — we talk a lot about him going out and just toning back his — he’s one of those guys that likes full-fledged energy, psychs himself out kind of deal. We wanted him to tone it back a litte bit. For him, 75 percent is 125 percent when he goes out. We just tell him, hey, strike one is your biggest pitch. You’ve got to throw strike one. Once he does that, it seems like he settles in a little bit.

But he’s done that over the last month or so, and he’s been really, really effective.

Q. Davey, you’ve talked a lot about guys kind of controlling their heartbeats, but with Anthony Rendon, some of his teammates have said that he plays like he has no pulse.
DAVE MARTINEZ: Yeah, he has no heart. I shouldn’t say that. He’s got a big heart. We just talked about this. I just watched that guy go up there in big moments and yawn during an at-bat. I mean, what does that say about him? He’s just one of those guys that you see no emotion regardless of if he hits a grand slam to win the game or he makes a great play or anything. He just plays.

You could talk to him, and he’ll tell you, all right, whatever, he gives you that, but I know he enjoys playing. And believe me, when he doesn’t do good, he gets really frustrated, he does. But I just love watching him play every day. He brings it every day. Even though, like I said, it looks like he has no pulse, but he does, and I know his teammates appreciate him very much.

Q. In the off-season, you lost one of your top players, Bryce Harper, to free agency. How did you overcome something like that? And are the Nationals today better today without him than they were with him?
DAVE MARTINEZ: We’ve had a long season. What I believe in is it takes more than one person to win the championship, and that’s been the message since Spring Training. Everybody’s got to participate. It takes more than 25 guys, honestly, to win the championship. Everybody we brought up at some capacity helped us win a game or two. So I’m proud of these guys sticking together. The biggest thing is that they play together.

We did things differently. We used different guys. If you look at all the people that played first base, all the people that played second base, when we lost Trea there for a while, guys that played shortstop, our outfielders, they all contributed, and I think that’s what it takes to win a championship.

Q. You were part of one of the most famous ends of a drought for a championship in major league history. This game tonight is going to be the first one in this city that’s this deep into the postseason in 86 years. Do you think that baseball history in the city of Washington maybe has not been talked about in terms of what this run for your team could mean for the city overall?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I think, one, this organization for years has been really, really good. And they’ve always been talked about as being one of the top teams in the division and they should go far. I think this year we kind of went under the radar because of the way we started, and now that we’re where we’re at, I think the fans, the city, appreciate how hard that we all worked to get to where we’re at and that the players keep pushing to get better every day, and they do that.

I expect them to go out there today and compete. That’s what we talk a lot about, just go out there and compete. Don’t try to do too much. Just go out there and have fun and compete.

Q. Stephen has a 1.32 career ERA in the postseason. Small sample size, but in a couple outings this year, have you noticed any special ability for him to ratchet up a notch or focus more?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I think he goes out there and just tries to compete. He doesn’t try to do anything different. What I love about these guys is everybody sees them every fifth day. I get to watch them every day and what they do behind the scenes. All our starters, they work harder than anybody to get ready for that fifth day, and I think that’s a testament to how good they are and what they want to do and what it means to them to win a championship.

Q. Davey, do players think about the historical significance of Washington getting into the World Series? Do the Cubs think about it given the 100-year drought?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I think right now, our players are not thinking a whole lot about anything except winning today. I really do. We got to this point. We celebrated the Wild Card. We celebrated Game 5, and it was a celebration, and they were like, okay, let’s go 1-0 next day. I think their focus is on just trying to go out there and go 1-0 today.

I just want to say one thing. I want to congratulate the Mystics for winning a championship. I think that’s pretty awesome for the city, as well. So congratulations.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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“So they held us down tonight and that’s going to happen. We know this isn’t going to be an easy series by any means. But over time I’ll take our guys and their approach, and tonight they just did a better job of holding us down.” — Aaron Boone.

October 14, 2019

Aaron Boone

Houston, Texas – postgame 2

Houston – 3, New York – 2 (11)

Q. Just discuss lifting Paxton so early and the decisions that created for the rest of the game?
AARON BOONE: Just felt like we were covered as far as today with getting some length and having guys rested. Obviously going into an off day tomorrow we’re just going to be aggressive. Thought he was struggling with his command. And it ends up — doesn’t end well.

But I thought as far as pitching-wise we did a good job of holding them down.

Q. Between pulling Paxton early, you had the infield in in the second inning, as well, is that a sense of urgency because Verlander is on the mound or is there some other calculus involved there?
AARON BOONE: We usually play it like that most all the time. Certainly Verlander being on the hill, runs are going to be tough to come by. More often than not I’m going to play that really aggressively.

Q. What do you see out of Ottavino right now, and how important is it for you guys moving forward to get him back on track?
AARON BOONE: He got ambushed on a first pitch strike slider and then after that weak contact and a punch-out that gets by that gets on. So no real issue.

I thought he was aggressively attacking the strike zone tonight. I thought he threw the ball well. He’s going to be very important for us in this series, especially with all their right-handed hitters. I think you look at how he threw the ball tonight, I thought he threw it well.

Q. Do you consider at all, even though it went well, once you remove a starter that early it could start a chain of events where if you got to extra innings you’re not using your traditional leverage guys?
AARON BOONE: You’re playing it to win the game. You’re not playing it to — what if we go 13, you know? You’re playing it to what gives us the best chance to win here. And the bottom line is we end up giving up a third run in the 11th inning. I’d say from a run prevention standpoint it went pretty well.

Q. The play at the plate where Correa throws out LeMahieu, what did you think of the play he made?
AARON BOONE: I thought it skipped off further, and I was an absolute send from where I was standing, I’m right behind third base there. Great heads up play by Correa, to be in that position, to catch it clean, and then obviously with his arm to throw a strike home. So I had no issue with the play at all.

Q. Just with your lineup in general and Gary, specifically?
AARON BOONE: I mean, it was a struggle tonight. They are the Houston Astros and they’re tough to score runs off, especially on a night when Verlander is out there.

So they held us down tonight and that’s going to happen. We know this isn’t going to be an easy series by any means. But over time I’ll take our guys and their approach, and tonight they just did a better job of holding us down.

As far as Gary goes, especially on that last at-bat, I thought he battled and had a lot of good swings within the at-bat, probably got rung up on a pitch. But I felt like he had some quality swings tonight, just not getting a lot of results right now.

Q. Paxton had an issue with tipping his pitches earlier against the Astros. Is that something that surfaced again tonight?
AARON BOONE: I mean, I don’t think so. We’re pretty vigilant on that stuff.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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