HOUSTON -- Among the questions remaining for the Nationals is who will play second base when the World Series begins Tuesday.
Davey Martinez said Monday veteran Howie Kendrick will be the designated hitter in Games 1 and 2. He did not specify who will start at second -- Asdrúbal Cabrera or Brian Dozier.
Cabrera appeared the easy choice based on how the two played to close the regular season. He’s also a switch-hitter with familiarity against Houston’s Game 1 starter Gerrit Cole. However, the history for the two suggests considering Dozier not to be outlandish.
Cabrera is 2 for 17 career against Cole. Dozier is a mere 1 for 2 with a double. Small head-to-head sample sizes typically matter little (especially two at-bats). However, in the final round of the season, a specific matchup is just that.
Dozier is the better defensive option. If he starts, the Nationals keep a switch-hitting choice as a pinch-hitter. Cabrera, though, carried a .969 OPS since joining the Nationals on Aug. 6 as a free agent. Countering that work is his 1 for 9 in the postseason.
As for Kendrick, he almost didn’t make it to this point. He hit .255 in 2016 when playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It wasn’t fun. He nearly retired.
“I wasn’t too happy with myself for a little bit,” Kendrick said. “But when I went over to the Phillies (the next season), I got a different side of the game. I got to see young guys. I became a veteran guy that they came to and started asking questions. I started having more fun and I found my love for the game again. It made me really happy again. Then I came over to the Nats, I was here with Dusty [Baker] -- that was huge for me because I always wanted to play for Dusty. After that year, having so much fun, I was like I want to come back for a couple more years.”
As a result, he’s in the World Series for the first time at age 36.
Bryce is not here, Bryce comes up
The second-most prominent question when Bryce Harper became a free agent was how the Nationals would play without him. The first was centered on destination.
Washington reached the World Series the first year Harper played in Philadelphia.
Before the season, Ryan Zimmerman wondered why the general populace couldn’t be happy for everyone. Why there had to be a villain. He argued to be happy for Harper, who earned his free agent windfall, as well as back the team going forward.
Monday, he was asked again about life without Harper.
“I think that’s part of the business,” Zimmerman said. “Obviously, Bryce was for sure the biggest name to ever leave. We’ve had impact players -- we had Jordan Zimmermann leave. Unfortunately, you kind of get numb to it. Obviously, respect them as players, but the biggest thing for us is they leave as a teammate, a friend and move on. At the end of the day, it is a business. He played for us for six years, he played great, he did a lot of things a lot of people have never done from age 19-25, so he deserves everything he got.
“I hope he has an unbelievable career and gets to do this. There’s some part of me that somehow thinks he will at some point. You move on, you play with what you got. The game waits for nobody. The game doesn’t care who’s on what team. You’ve to move on. You’ve got to play.”
Rain on an off-day? Of course
The Nationals expected to play a simulated game at Nationals Park on Sunday. Bad weather made Martinez wonder from his couch if it was going to happen.
They worked out starting Thursday. In general, the team does a lot of work in the batting cage as opposed to spending an extended time on the field. Once the storms finally cleared Sunday, they were able to play a simulated game with Aníbal Sánchez pitching.
“I joked around after we clinched, I'm going to give you guys a day off,” Martinez said. “And they all laughed, especially Anthony [Rendon]. He said, ‘Just one?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Our work is not over. We've got to come back.’ We schedule workouts the next four days and these guys were all in. They got their work in. We did a lot of stuff in the training room. They did a lot of stuff in the weight room, strength conditioning, a lot of running activities, and they hit. They hit a bunch. So we're ready to go.”
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