Martinez's shrewd moves help key Nats' 7th-inning rally

May 26th, 2024

WASHINGTON -- Manager Dave Martinez was taken back to games he had navigated in the past.

Tied with the AL West-leading Mariners with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park, Martinez went to work, moving the puzzle pieces of the Nationals’ roster around. The maneuvering resulted in a 3-1 victory and series win.

“It kind of reminds me of the days we had the pitcher hitting [in the] National League games,” Martinez said. “It’s fun when everybody’s engaged and guys are playing well.”

The Nationals found themselves even with Seattle at one run apiece after Julio Rodríguez homered off Trevor Williams (who tied a career high with eight strikeouts in five-plus innings) to erase the early lead Keibert Ruiz had given the Nats with a second-inning sacrifice fly.

Jesse Winker singled into center field off lefty reliever Gabe Speier to begin the rally. The outfielder stole his sixth base of the season to put a runner in scoring position for Ruiz, who advanced him to third on a single to left field in his second consecutive multi-hit game.

Then came a flurry of substitutions.

The Mariners made a call to the bullpen for right-hander Trent Thornton. Winker experienced cramping, and the Nationals subbed in the speedy Victor Robles to pinch-run.

“I wanted to make sure that somebody could score for us,” Martinez said.

Not done yet, Martinez tabbed veteran switch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas to pinch-hit for Nick Senzel in hopes of avoiding a double play in a righty-righty matchup. Vargas made contact on a ground ball to shortstop to drive in Robles for the go-ahead run.

“He’s swinging the bat well,” Martinez said of Vargas. “When they brought [Thornton] in, I always talk about things that we could do throughout the game. We had penciled in if they did come in a big situation, we could pinch-hit for him right there. It was a big situation, and he put the ball in play.”

Adding an insurance run, Joey Gallo connected on a line-drive single into right field to bring in Ruiz from second base. Ruiz’s approach on scoring from there was “put my face down and run hard.”

“It’s something that I don’t do all the time,” Ruiz said. “But I’m just happy the way we won.”

Ruiz has tallied eight total bases in the first two games of the series, compared to 25 total bases the rest of the season.

“He’s playing aggressive,” said Martinez. “We talk about this all the time; it’s just who we are. We’ve got to push the envelope a little bit, but we’ve got to be smart about it.”

Reliever Dylan Floro pitched the top of the seventh and earned his first win of the season. In doing so, he extended his scoreless streak to a Nationals-record 21 2/3 scoreless innings, per Elias Sports Bureau. Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan closed out the game to clinch Washington’s third home series win of the season.

The Nats improved to 12-13 in Interleague Play.

“Our pitching and defense are keeping us in the ball game,” said Martinez. “But right now, we’re scoring enough runs to win these games. The last two games, we played really well.”