Quote of the Day: D-Train derailed again

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Dontrelle Willis, on handing out eight walks while allowing six runs in 3.2 innings Sunday:

Honestly, today was just unacceptable. I can’t put my team in that
type of hole. Can’t beat anybody pitching like that. It’s very tough to
pitch when you’re in a jam every inning. I’m going to have to finally
do something, or somebody else is going to have to go out there to help
this ball club win. Because I just can’t go out there and do that. You
can’t defend a walk.

I appreciate Skip giving me the leeway to go out there every time.
Every time he gives me leeway, I go one step forward and two steps
back. It’s just unacceptable, and I’m disappointed in myself the way I
played today. Just throwing the ball and making them hit it. I don’t
care what corner it is. Just go out there and establish that I can
throw the ball over the plate.

Struggling to throw strikes is nothing new for Willis, but he initially
showed some signs of potentially getting over the problem after
rejoining the Tigers’ rotation last month. However, over his last three
starts Willis has walked 18 batters in 11 innings and is sadly looking
like as big a mess as ever.

Jeremy Bonderman was quickly sent back to the disabled list
last week after struggling in his season debut, but as Willis notes in
the above quote manager Jim Leyland has been very patient with him. So
far, at least. While the Tigers are up three games in what is a weak AL
Central, they can’t afford to keep trotting Willis out there to implode
every fifth day and he might be one more rough outing from being
replaced by Zach Miner.

Rick Ankiel blazed a trail for young left-handed pitchers who
suddenly can’t throw strikes by becoming a full-time outfielder and some people are calling for
the Tigers to make the same switch with Willis. Of course, while
Willis’ career .233/.279/.358 line is really good for a pitcher it’s
also really bad for an outfielder.

Plus, even if Willis were to follow in Ankiel’s footsteps by
significantly boosting his offense after becoming a full-time hitter
the Ankiel path also included multiple seasons between pitching in the
majors and hitting in the majors. Ankiel had his Willis-like struggles
in 2001 with another brief stint as a pitcher in 2004 and became a
starting outfielder in 2007. Willis is already 27 years old, so he
doesn’t really have that kind of time.

Nationals’ Soto youngest ever to win NL batting crown

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — Juan Soto became the National League’s youngest batting champion, Trea Turner hit a grand slam and drove in seven runs, and the Washington Nationals closed out the season with a 15-5 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday.

Soto walked and singled before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the third inning, elevating his average to .351 and sealing the NL lead in the category during this pandemic-shortened 60-game season.

The 21-year-old Soto surpassed Brooklyn’s Pete Reiser for the youngest ever to take a batting crown. Reiser was 22 when he ended the 1941 season hitting a league-leading .343.

“For me, it doesn’t matter the age,” Soto said with a smile when informed of the feat’s historical significance. “If you deserve it, you deserve it.”

Soto held off Atlanta teammates Freddie Freeman (.341) and Marcell Ozuna (.338) and also finished 2020 with the major league-lead in on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.695).

Yan Gomes homered for Washington, which won seven of its last nine and closed the season on a three-game winning streak and caught the Mets in the NL East standings.

“These guys don’t quit,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “They play hard every day and you saw what they did the last nine games. I’m proud of them hanging in there.”

The Nationals finished 26-34 a year after winning their first World Series. The Nationals’ .433 winning percentage in the truncated season was the lowest for a defending champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins went 54-108 (.333).

New York slipped from 86-76 last season and third place in the NL East to 26-34 and tied for fourth in manager Luis Rojas’ first season. The Mets still held slim playoff hopes entering Saturday before dropping three in a row, and they would have secured a wild card had they won those games because of three-game slides by Philadelphia and San Francisco to end the season.

“We didn’t get it done,” Rojas said. “We needed to do it, and we didn’t do it. It was definitely all on us. It makes it a little bit more frustrating just seeing that part happened the way we wanted, but we didn’t execute what we needed to do.”

Pete Alonso homered twice for New York and finished with 16 after clubbing a rookie-record 53 last season. Guillermo Heredia added a solo shot for the Mets.

Washington right-hander Austin Voth (2-5) needed 36 pitches to escape the first but made it through five innings to close his season with back-to-back victories. Voth allowed four runs while striking out four.

The Nationals chased Mets starter Seth Lugo after 1 1/3 innings. Lugo (3-4) allowed six runs on five hits and two walks.

With Washington already leading 7-3, Turner busted the game open with a third-inning grand slam off reliever Steven Matz. It was Washington’s first grand slam of the season.

KENDRICK’S FUTURE

Washington and INF Howie Kendrick have a mutual option for 2021, and he has at least one prominent figure hopeful for his return.

“I’m holding onto his leg,” Martinez said. “He’s got a lot of discussions to have with his family and I told him we’ll stay in touch as we always do and we’ll see where he’s at.”

The 37-year-old Kendrick hit .275 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games, and ended the season on the injured list with a left hamstring strain.

NATS AWARDS

Soto was named Washington’s player of the year and RHP Max Scherzer (5-4, 3.74 ERA) earned the team’s pitcher of the year award in voting by local media. LHP Sean Doolittle won his third consecutive Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: New York placed RHP Erasmo Ramirez (right groin tightness) on the injured list. Ramirez was 0-0 with an 0.63 ERA in six games. The Mets recalled RHP Corey Oswalt.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles was hit by a pitch in the second inning and was lifted for a defensive replacement in the third.

UP NEXT

Mets: New York opens its 2021 spring training schedule on Feb. 27 against Miami in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Nationals: Washington takes on Houston on Feb. 27 in West Palm Beach, Florida, in its scheduled 2021 spring training debut.