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Davey Martinez explains why Stephen Strasburg was pulled two outs shy of a complete game in the World Series

Davey Martinez explains why Stephen Strasburg was pulled two outs shy of a complete game in the World Series

In the game that earned him a World Series MVP award, Stephen Strasburg’s body was nearing its limit after seven innings of two-run ball.

It was Game 6, and the win-or-go-home Nationals had a 5-2 lead over the Houston Astros courtesy of Anthony Rendon crushing a two-run homer earlier that frame. Manager Davey Martinez had just been ejected for arguing with the umpire crew, leaving bench coach Chip Hale in chare of in-game decisions for the rest of the contest.

Strasburg stumbled to start the game, allowing two runs in the first inning off an Alex Bregman moonshot. But pitching coach Paul Menhart noticed the right-hander was tipping his pitches and told him to stop shaking his glove when he concealed his grip. The adjustment proved effective, as Strasburg didn’t give up another hit until the fifth and cruised through seven innings without allowing another run.

But at 98 pitches, Strasburg was beginning to feel the wear on his body. The former Tommy John recipient had already thrown a National League-best 209 innings during the regular season and just finished his 35th frame of the playoffs. No one could’ve faulted Strasburg for coming out after the performance he had just put together in Houston.

Hale gave him another inning. He set down the Astros 1-2-3 in five pitches. That earned him the opportunity to come back out for the ninth, when he forced Yuli Gurriel to line out and put the Nationals two outs away from forcing a Game 7. That was when Hale came in with the hook.

“I get thrown out and Chip does a great job,” Martinez said on 106.7 The Fan’s Grant & Danny Show on Thursday. “I try not to tell Chip what to do ever. He was awesome. [Menhart] came up and I said, ‘Look, you know you have these other guys down there.’ [Strasburg] was barking a little bit in the seventh inning so I told Chip, ‘Hey, you make that decision, you make that call.’ And I thought he made the right call for our club and for Stephen.”

With two more outs, Strasburg would’ve been the first pitcher to toss a complete game in World Series Game 6 or later since Josh Beckett did it for the Florida Marlins in 2003.

“It would’ve been awesome, [but] at that point we knew we had the guys to finish the game,” Martinez said. “Stras did everything he could. We asked him to do things that he never thought he was capable of doing, which is come out of the bullpen a bunch, pitch on three days’ rest. He pitched a lot of innings last year so that game, for me, the decision to do that was based on where we were at at that point.”

Instead, Hale handed the ball over to Sean Doolittle, who allowed a two-out double to Carlos Correa but got through the frame cleanly to give the Nationals yet another come-from-behind win in an elimination game. Strasburg didn’t get the complete game, but he pushed through enough to deliver the signature performance of his career.

“We knew it was going to be his last game but we also had to think about the future of Stephen Strasburg,” Martinez said. “That’s where that decision came from.”

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Scott Boras: Davey Martinez gave ‘a real lesson’ in how to believe in his players

Scott Boras: Davey Martinez gave ‘a real lesson’ in how to believe in his players

When the Nationals stumbled out to a 19-31 start to last season, Davey Martinez didn’t panic.

He was only in his second season as an MLB manager, but Martinez had a roster of players far more talented than what its record was leading others to believe. Amid swirling rumors about his job status and the future of the franchise, Martinez trusted that his players would be able to turn things around.

Five months later, those very same players took down the Houston Astros in seven games to win D.C. a World Series title for the first time since 1924. Longtime baseball agent Scott Boras, who represented several stars for Washington such as Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, was among those who was particularly impressed with the way Martinez kept his clubhouse together.

Boras talked with NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas and Chase Hughes on Friday’s episode of the Nationals Talk podcast about what stood out to him when it came to Martinez’s approach.

“I really credit Davey Martinez because the one message he kept giving everyone was a true lack of concern for the moment and trusting very much about who all those players were,” Boras said. “Every player brought that to my attention at the end of the year, where this was not a compromised manager.

“This was not someone who questioned who we were. It was not someone who showed up and was really making more out of the future other than, ‘Be who you are today and go forward.’”

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

With sports pushed to the side while the world grips with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, fans have a lot of more important things on their minds than baseball right now. Yet Boras felt that Martinez’s approach was something everyone should try to emulate when dealing with the uncertainty that the future holds.

“It’s a real lesson for a lot of people,” Boras said. “I think particularly when you’re in an environment, ironically that’s in Washington, D.C., [with] what we’re going through with this pandemic and the focus on our leadership and our country…we really have to make sure that we’re looking about what’s within and not looking about the vague aspects of what the future may bring.

“The Washington Nationals represented their city and our country really well with that message.”

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Nationals championship rings revealed: Here's what they look like

Nationals championship rings revealed: Here's what they look like

Salivating and awe came first. Distribution will have to wait.

The Nationals revealed their jewel-laden championship ring during a slow-moving, hour-long telecast Sunday night which was originally supposed to include select players receiving their rings. After pushback from the players -- who wanted to receive the rings together when it was safe to do so -- the night was converted to more of a reveal than reaction.

The ring itself included several nods to the D.C. area, markers from the championship season, and specific personalizations.

Here’s a blow-by-blow:

-- The ring is 14-karat white and yellow gold

-- The “W” logo is made from 30 rubies to represent the 30 runs the team scored in the four World Series game

-- Around the logo are 58 pavé-set diamonds

-- Above and below the logo or the words “World Champions” set over the ring via 32 sapphires. This number represents the sum total of the team’s 2019 walk-off wins (7), shutout wins (13), longest winning streak (8 games), and playoff rounds won (4).

-- An additional 108 diamonds are featured along the ring top, representing the number of regular season and postseason wins (105), plus one diamond for the World Series title and two diamonds for the locations -- Washington and Montreal -- of the franchise.

-- The top and bottom of the ring have 12 rubies to represent the total number of postseason wins

-- On the left side in yellow gold is the player’s name

-- Beneath the name is a flag, the Capitol Building and the Roman numerals MMVI to represent the year the Lerner family purchased the franchise

-- The player’s number is in diamonds on the bottom left side

-- “Fight Finished” is on the right side

-- The interior of the ring is engraved with a shark symbol holding a yellow gold trophy. So, yes, a nod to “Baby Shark” has made it onto the rings

-- Also on the interior are the team logos of each opponent the Nationals defeated in the postseason

-- “Go 1-0 every day” is also engraved inside

-- In total, the average championship ring contains 170 total diamonds, 32 custom-cut sapphires, 31 custom-cut rubies, and 24 princess-cut rubies for a precious total stone carat weight of 23.2 carats.

LISTEN TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

The lead up of the ring reveal included congratulatory messages from a slew of people associated with the Nationals in the present and past.

Former closer Chad Cordero and catcher Brian Schneider started the video messages. Denard Span and Adam LaRoche followed. Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, former Redskins player Brian Mitchell, chef José Andrés and Dr. Anthony Fauci were among several others to send congratulations.

In a post-reveal show, the players emphasized they were looking forward to receiving the rings in a group.

“I think the only thing better than seeing it is going to be wearing it,” Howie Kendrick said.

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