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Davey Martinez literally choked when Juan Soto sprained his ankle, he says'

Davey Martinez literally choked when Juan Soto sprained his ankle, he says'

WASHINGTON -- Both Juan Soto and Davey Martinez were alarmed when Soto pulled up after crossing third base Sunday.

Soto, catching a last-second stop sign from third base coach Bob Henley, halted his running, then picked up his right leg. In that moment, when Soto could no longer return to the bag or do anything but gimp, worst-case thoughts passed through the mind of the manager and player.

Martinez said Monday he “choked” on the sunflower seeds he was chomping on in the seventh inning in Citi Field. Once his own health was cleared, Martinez then worried Soto did something to his Achilles tendon.

“That's what really scared me the most,” Martinez said. “I told him, 'You gave me a heart attack, you really did.' Now we know he's good and he's going to be OK, now it's just continuing to strengthen him and he's taped up. He was adamant [Monday] about wanting to do something, but we said we had to know where he's at, got to test it -- he wants to play, but let's take our time and see if you're available to pinch-hit and we'll put you in a situation where we need you. I'm assuming that, by what the medical staff is saying, is that it won't be very long.”

Soto’s big fear was he broke his ankle -- again. Soto broke his right ankle in 2017, which was the only thing to slow his rise from the minor leagues to the major leagues. 

“I feel when I turn, I feel like really hard pain, but it’s just gone away,” Soto said.

Both Martinez and Soto shifted into relief following negative X-Rays. 

If Soto's challenge Monday was to stay still, Martinez’s challenge was finding a reasonable lineup. Without Soto, Matt Adams hit cleanup Monday night. Asdrubal Cabrera -- on the field again because Brian Dozier is sick -- hit fifth and Gerardo Parra hit sixth. Howie Kendrick was activated Monday from the 10-day injured list to bolster the bench. In essence, Martinez was working with a two-man bench Monday night because of Dozier’s illness and Soto’s sore ankle. Just catcher Yan Gomes and Kendrick were available. Kendrick had not played since July 31.

However, the Nationals hope such a torn-down lineup is temporary because Soto should be back soon.

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Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jose Altuve hit a game-ending homer off Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros outlasted the New York Yankees 6-4 Saturday night to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.

In a bullpen game with a back-and-forth finish, DJ LeMahieu hit a tying, two-run shot off Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth. Altuve answered with a two-run drive to left-center, setting off a wild celebration at Minute Maid Park.

Astros ace Gerrit Cole was waiting to pitch a potential Game 7 in this AL Championship Series on Sunday. Instead, the postseason star -- undefeated since May 22 -- could be lined up for Game 1 at home against the NL champion Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. 

 

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Nationals veterans want to be clear chemistry matter as much as analytics

Nationals veterans want to be clear chemistry matter as much as analytics

WASHINGTON -- Inside the age discussion around Washington’s older team is another percolating topic. Those same members of the 30-plus realm also tend to roll their eyes -- to a degree -- at analytics.

Multiple veterans have pushed back at the influence of statistical analysis on success. They are not discounting it on the whole. They are trying to add emphasis on the human element, the so-called “eye test” and, no matter how it is received elsewhere, express their thoughts about information overload.

Washington's organization remained scout heavy even as it developed its in-house analytics system named “Pentagon”. General manager Mike Rizzo comes from a scouting background. He also spearheaded a push for more depth in the organization’s analytics department, capping those efforts by promoting Mike DeBartolo and Sam Mondry-Cohen to assistant general manager positions before the season began. 

Both were reared in the organization. DeBartolo graduated from Tufts University, then Columbia Business School. He worked at an investment advisory firm prior joining the Nationals as an intern in baseball operations seven years ago. Mondry-Cohen is charged with “the front office’s analysis of baseball data and the development of department-wide baseball systems.” He went to the University of Pennsylvania, and, like DeBartolo, began his work as a baseball operations intern.

Next to Rizzo, they represent balance. Rizzo ascended from assistant college coach to regional scout to director of scouting in Arizona, where a portion of his roster-building technique (starting pitching, plus more starting pitching) was honed. He consistently touts the club’s scouts. 

Davey Martinez was hired to use more information and deploy it. In all, the Nationals have tried to balance the sides while keeping a large emphasis on scouting.

At this point, the distribution and absorption of information is more of a challenge than discovering or creating it. One thing Scherzer pointed out about Juan Soto is his ability to process so much information so quickly. Soto mostly does this via experience, not charts and scouting reports. Another thing Scherzer pointed out at the All-Star Game was his irritation the weight of analytics now possesses in the game.

“Everybody thinks this is just a math game and a numbers game, and you just look at WAR, and you know your team,” Scherzer said. “We can have projections and models -- you name it -- and that’s baseball. That’s not baseball. 

“Baseball’s played by humans. We’re humans. We experience emotions and we’re pretty good about channeling what it takes to compete every single day, but when you get a good clubhouse and you get some good energy, good vibes, it makes it easy for everybody to compete at the same level. I feel like that’s what we have going on. We have very good clubhouse. Everybody’s kind of settled in their roles. We all know how to clown on each other, have fun, when anybody makes a mistake -- my God, I’ve been making a heck of a lot of mistakes lately, everybody is getting a good laugh at -- that’s a sign of a winning club.”

Rendon uses analytics as a key to jokes about his success. When he beat out a grounder after returning from quad and hamstring tightness, he told reporters to “Statcast me.” Asked during the National League Division Series why this became his best statistical year, he sent another zing.

“Launch angle,” Rendon said with a smile. “No. Yeah, I really don't know. I've been getting a lot of those questions lately or at least this season. And I think if I actually knew, if I changed anything or if I knew if I was going to have this type of season, I actually would have done it a long time ago and I wouldn't have waited six or seven years into it. But I think that, man, I say all the time, I think I'm partly, I'm getting lucky.”

The idea of simplicity -- and the human touch -- trickles down to the initial assessments when hunting the next prospect. Johnny DiPuglia, Nationals director, international operations, explained the club’s player-hunt philosophy is less about using technology to assess spin rate and more about finding the best player on the field.

“We don't complicate ourselves with all this analytic stuff that's out now with all this TrackMan (pitching analysis) and all the Blast (swing analysis sensor and software) and all this stuff that is used," DiPuglia said. "We go out in the field, we beat the bushes and we watch games. We try to find the best player on the field, get the checkpoints and if he checkpoints the profile of a big-league position, we evaluate the numbers money-wise and try to sign the kid. We do it to the simplest form here. We don't try to complicate things.

“The game is the same game it was 50 years ago. Unfortunately, now it's a little more complicated and too much information is given.”

The contrast between the Nationals and their likely World Series opponent, Houston, is striking. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is on the box of the Blast “complete hitting solution.” Tomes have been written about Houston’s application of analytics when restructuring and rebooting its organization. Its success indisputably shows the process has worked: The Astros won the World Series in 2017, made it to the ALCS in 2018 and are back there again in 2019. Five years ago, they lost 92 games. Baltimore hired former Houston assistant general manager Mike Elias to repeat the process.

In Washington, the veteran-filled clubhouse casts a wary eye toward analytics. Their process has been simpler. They believe in the karma coming out of their room. Many of them think its value rivals that of deep scouting reports or color-coded charts. Whatever the formula, it was enough to finally breakthrough and reach the World Series.

Chase Hughes contributed to this report.

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