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What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s action

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Wednesday’s games kicked off early with a noon start between the Red Sox and Rays, followed shortly thereafter by the Cubs and Reds, as well as the Marlins and Tigers.

The Indians sent their winning streak to 11 games on Tuesday night, besting the Braves 5-3 behind eight strong innings from Corey Kluber and a two-hit, two-RBI performance from Jose Ramirez. As the Royals lost to the Cardinals, the Indians increased their first place lead in the AL Central to six games. Danny Salazar, who has the second-lowest ERA among qualified American League starters, will start for the Tribe tonight against the Braves’ Joel de la Cruz in a 7:10 PM EDT start at Turner Field.

Salazar’s success thus far is a bit baffling. While he’s striking out a bunch of batters — his 28.3 percent strikeout rate is seventh best among all qualified starters in baseball — he’s also walking a bunch of them, too. His 12.3 percent walk rate represents a 50 percent increase over his career average and is five percent higher than his rate in any of the previous three seasons. Only Francisco Liriano (14.1) and Tom Koehler (12.5) have a higher walk rate.

There are other factors to Salazar’s success. His 48 percent ground ball rate is up five percent over last year, which has factored into a lower batting average on balls in play (.249), yielding fewer home runs (six), and stranding more runners (84.1 percent). If one is going to walk a bunch of batters, it’s great to pair that up with a solid ground ball rate. While I am doubtful of Salazar’s ability to maintain this level of pitching over the rest of the season, regression probably isn’t going to hit him tonight against the Braves, who have baseball’s worst offense.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez) @ Colorado Rockies (Tyler Anderson), 3:10 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Dallas Keuchel) @ Los Angeles Angels (Jered Weaver), 3:35 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Yovani Gallardo) @ San Diego Padres (Christian Friedrich), 3:40 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Zach Eflin) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley), 3:40 PM EDT

New York Mets (Logan Verrett) @ Washington Nationals (Max Scherzer), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Nick Martinez) @ New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka), 7:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Brock Stewart) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Junior Guerra), 8:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 8:10 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez), 8:15 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Jake Peavy) @ Oakland Athletics (Sean Manaea), 10:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Jameson Taillon) @ Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley), 10:10 PM EDT

 

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”