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Martinez, not chasing wins, still has Nats in position to win Series

washington nationalsJohn Smoltz was critical of the move Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez made to go to Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning in Game 4.

OK, so were those of us sitting in Section 109 at Nats Park. Most of us aren’t Hall of Famers.

For Smoltz, the Fox broadcast color guy, he has to know that Martinez isn’t going to go with the A bullpen, doesn’t he?

Maybe, maybe not. Because the talk postgame among the expert baseball writers was also, yo, Davey, why didn’t you go Daniel Hudson or Sean Doolittle there?

“Rainey has been our guy in the seventh inning. When he starts throwing balls, usually he can’t come out of it. He got a big out for us,” Martinez said, explaining his thinking after going Tanner Rainey to start the seventh, ahead of Rainey walking the first two batters that he faced, pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker and leadoff man George Springer.

Rainey rallied to get Jose Altueve, who apparently can be retired, for out number one.

Then came Martinez, with the hook, to have Rodney face Brantley, a left-handed hitter, but of course Rodney is a righty, as is Rainey.

“Honestly thought that Rodney was, with the change-up on Brantley, which like I said, Brantley is a good hitter, he threw a good pitch, Brantley put the ball in play.”

It was the softest of soft liners, that Brantley single that loaded the bases. We’re talking a 79-mph exit velo here.

Most 79-mph exit velos are outs, as you know.

This brought Alex Bregman to the plate with the bases juiced.

His 100-mph, 392-foot fly ball to left wasn’t hit as hard as a Ryan Zimmerman 108-mph liner or a 102-mph liner off the bat of Yan Gomes in the bottom of the seventh, but, whatever.

Because it cleared the fence in left, with ease.

Grand slam. 8-1 ‘Stros.

Any thought, in retrospect, to going, say, Daniel Hudson there?

“For me, you don’t chase wins,” Martinez said. “Come tomorrow, we’re up 2-0, and all of a sudden we’re in the seventh inning, you have to use Hudson for two innings, you have to use Doolittle for two innings. You want those guys ready to pitch. I know we got a day off the next day. All this was talked about before the game. But you’re down still three runs, and like I said, Rainey has done well for us. It just happens he couldn’t throw strikes tonight.”

And, of course, yes, this is the answer.

You don’t like that this is the answer, but this is the answer.

It’s 2-2. Martinez has Huddie and Doo at full strength, along with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at full rest, in what is now a best-of-three.

Not chasing a win facing a 4-1 deficit in the seventh has him there.

Smart move.

Column by Chris Graham


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