Victor Martinez on the Pirates: “I have no respect for no one on that team”

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In this age of “you gotta tip your cap to the other team” kinds of quotes it’s rare to hear real animosity coming from a major league clubhouse. But you heard it yesterday from Victor Martinez, referring to the Pirates. And not just at a single player. He is not pleased with that entire team. From the Detroit Free Press:

“I have no respect for no one on that team, including Cole and their coaching staff.”

The context: Justin Verlander hit Starling Marte with a pitch on Tuesday night. It was not, it appeared, intentional, as it came in a 1-2 count, there had been nothing to provoke Verlander and, to be fair, Verlander’s command has not been fantastic lately. Later, however, when Martinez was up, Gerrit Cole hit him in the ribs in what everyone on the Tigers, Brad Ausmus included, thinks was intentional. Martinez:

“Yeah, everyone knows that,” Martinez said when asked by WXYT-FM reporter Jeff Riger if he thought Cole’s pitch was intentional . . . If they think that Verlander hit Marte with a 1-2 count — he was battling that at-bat — if they really think we did it on purpose, they’re playing the wrong sport.”

No matter what you think of this situation — and you have to be opposed to guys throwing at other guys intentionally — you have to love Cole’s comment when told of Martinez’s words: “That’s his opinion, man.” The dude abides.

For purposes of interleague play, the Tigers and the Pirates are designated as “rivals,” mostly because each lacks a traditional or natural rival in the other league. Now, one assumes, the rivalry actually has some teeth.

 

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.