Nationals cap an emotional day with a 4-1 loss to Blue Jays, drop to 1-3
But a loss felt like a blip in the bigger picture.
“We have to remember that we’re all human beings and we’re playing through some tough times,” Martinez said Monday afternoon when asked why he seemed emotional, even on the verge of tears, during a pregame news conference. “I just want people to remember that. We have struggles. These guys have families. I have a family.
“We think about that stuff. Just remember that we’re doing the best we can.”
There was enough to handle on the first day of the first full week of the season. Martinez checked up on left fielder Juan Soto, who remains sidelined after testing positive for the coronavirus Thursday. Soto has received one lab-confirmed negative test result from MLB, Martinez confirmed, and will need a second before he can return to the field.
To pad their bench, the Nationals officially signed veteran utility man Josh Harrison to a major league deal. To make room on their active roster, they optioned catcher Raudy Read to their alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va. Then Martinez had to make a lineup, then a pitching plan, then chat with those worried about recent developments.
That’s managing during a pandemic. It’s a constant balancing act. The 55-year-old Martinez is known for his positivity. He often defaults to cliches, saying the Nationals need to control what they can control, focus on the task at hand, go 1-0 today. But that outlook was shaken by the news that the Marlins were stuck in Philadelphia, and the Phillies, having played the Marlins on Sunday, were waiting for expedited test results.
Martinez received a bunch of text messages. He wondered if any of his players would opt out ahead of this Blue Jays matchup, only the fourth game of a 60-game schedule. And while none did, Martinez remained concerned about them, their wives and kids, and whether they can possibly stay safe in this environment.
It was just last September that Martinez felt a sharp pain in his chest, lost feeling in his left arm and his left thigh and was soon rushed out of the stadium for a possible heart attack. He wound up missing a series in St. Louis before returning once doctors had cleared him to fly. He has been a baseball guy for decades and would do almost anything to be by a field. But he also knows a bit about having health scares in the dugout.
“You know what? I’m going to be honest with you. I’m scared. I really am,” Martinez said Monday. “So I go from here, home, back here every day. That’s all I do. I wash my hands — I went from 47 times a day to probably 99 times a day. Wear my mask everywhere I go. There’s that concern.
“Right now, you don’t know, because of my heart condition, what happens to me if I do get it. So I’ve got to be extra careful.”
With Martinez shifting around — from the bench to the top step and back again — the Blue Jays jumped on Sánchez. The 36-year-old starter wound up with eight strikeouts in five innings. Four of his pitches, though, were hit out of the park.
Teoscar Hernández led off the game by lifting a cutter out to right. He hit another shot in the fifth, off another cutter, after Rowdy Tellez and Danny Jansen did the same. Sánchez attacked Tellez with a first-pitch curve that hung at the designated hitter’s belt. Jansen hit a well-placed cutter on the outer half. Sánchez was otherwise solid, save some hard contact, but the offense wasn’t.
“I missed the pitch against those guys,” Sánchez said after yielding an odd six hits: four homers, two doubles and no singles. “They’re fresh, they’re young, they’re strong. It’s like a new baseball era.”
In the second inning, Victor Robles only singled off the right field wall because Eric Thames was a bit too conservative on the bases. A small rally in the third faded when Howie Kendrick bounced into a double play. The Nationals did score in the fourth, once Thames wheeled around from first on a Kurt Suzuki double. But Michael A. Taylor lined into a double play to keep the damage light. Soon Asdrúbal Cabrera did the same to end the fifth.
The seventh brought a bit of noise, but still nothing to show for it. Turner singled and Adam Eaton walked against Blue Jays reliever Ryan Borucki. That brought the tying run to the plate with one out, and Toronto Manager Charlie Montoyo turned to righty Jordan Romano. He got Starlin Castro to fly out to right and Kendrick to ground out to third, and the Nationals never got another runner past first.
“Once the game starts, you get so involved you kind of forget about everything,” Martinez said following the loss. “Then, all of a sudden, the game’s over and you’re sitting in your office. A lot of times, I don’t fall asleep until two, three in the morning just wondering what’s going to happen the next day.”