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Robinson's seventh-inning homer good enough for 2-1 win

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Robinson's seventh-inning homer good enough for 2-1 win

By Rich Dubroff
CSNwashington.com

In spring training, it was no certainty  Clint Robinson would make the Nationals. The final outfield spot came down to Mike Carp and Robinson.

Carp had six years of major league experience, and at 28, had 318 major league games and a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox.

Robinson, who turned 30 as spring training began, had played in just 13 major league games.

Halfway through the season, Robinson is providing crucial depth for the Nationals while Carp is, at least for the moment, out of baseball.

Robinson’s two-run home run in the seventh inning gave the Nationals a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants before a sellout crowd of 41,693 at Nationals Park on Friday night.

After Robinson hit his fourth home run off Jake Peavy, he took a curtain call. But not at first.

“That was as big a shot of adrenaline as you could ask for. I was a little bit late with it, I think he’d already gotten two pitches into the next batter before I got out there. I was trying to calm myself down because I was messed up inside, but it was great,” Robinson said.

Early in the season, Robinson pinch hit and played in the outfield when Bryce Harper was injured, and these days, he’s getting to play some first base because Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list.

Robinson has impressed manager Matt Williams, who obviously appreciates the feel-good story, but appreciates the attributes he offers.

“It’s perseverance, isn’t it? It’s a long time in the minor leagues with success, with success at every level, and he’s finally getting to opportunity to play in the big leagues, getting an opportunity to play on a regular basis, and showing us what he can do. He’s been very productive for us,” Williams said.

Robinson, who started in the Kansas City organization, batted over .300 three times in his first six professional seasons including winning the Triple Crown in the Texas League in 2010 before he got four at-bats with the Royals in 2012.

He spent 2013 season in both Double and Triple-A with the Toronto organization before getting in nine games with Dodgers a year ago.

Now, he’s what passes for an overnight sensation.

“I know why this didn’t happen a few years ago. There’s only 750 guys in the major leagues, and there are thousands of guys trying to get one of them. It’s just about being in the right place at the right time. That’s why you hear about guys who play for years and years and everybody always asks: ‘Why?’

“Well, it’s because eventually that opportunity is going to come hopefully. Mine came this year, and I’m trying to make the most of it,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s home run made a winner out of Gio Gonzalez, who pitched seven innings, and allowed one run on Buster Posey’s homer in the seventh. He struck out six, and for the first time this season, didn’t walk a batter.

Gonzalez (6-4) was pitching on five days rest because of a truncated start last Saturday in Philadelphia when he threw just 18 pitches before the game was rained out.

For a moment in the third inning, it looked as if Gonzalez had given himself the lead when he hit a long fly ball down the left field line. It was called foul, and Gonzalez was denied his fourth career home run.

“I knew it was foul off the bat. I didn’t want him to think I was showing [him] up. I knew it was foul,” Gonzalez said.

“I was trying to keep my head down. I didn’t know what was going on. Don’t know if it’s fair, don’t know if it’s off the wall or it’s gone. That’s the signature Gio Gonzalez move.”

Jake Peavy (0-3), making his first start since Apr. 17, pitched six excellent innings against the Nationals, allowing two hits in the first innings, and nothing else until the big home run.

Matt Thornton retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, and Drew Storen polished off the Giants in the ninth for his 24th save.

The hero was Robinson, who knows his playing time will be reduced when Zimmerman returns. He appreciates what he has.

“Every day in the big leagues is a good day. As long as I’m up here, I’m going to do the best I can to help this team win and hopefully take us into the playoffs,” Robinson said.

NOTES:  Harper has equaled his season high of five games without an RBI. He walked three times. ... In his debut with the Racing Presidents, Calvin Coolidge won by pushing Teddy aside at the tape. … Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.99) faces Stephen Strasburg (5-5, 5.49) at 11:05 a.m. on Saturday. 

MORE NATIONALS: HARPER'S BODY ISSUE PHOTOS WILL MAKE YOU BLUSH

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How MLB managers feeling heat, including Nationals' Davey Martinez, block it out

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How MLB managers feeling heat, including Nationals' Davey Martinez, block it out

WASHINGTON -- Davey Martinez likes to venture around town when the Nationals are home. He hunts for a quality bottle of red wine in local shops, at times takes a scooter to work and generally operates among the District denizens as if he wasn’t captaining a creaking ship.

When alone, he’s not overly recognizable but clear enough after a year-plus at the helm of the local baseball team to be noticed. The subsequent interactions, he claims, are often positive. Fans say they believe the Nationals will turn it around. They support him. They’re behind the team.

“Fans understand the game,” Martinez said Saturday. “Of course everybody wants to win. We want to win. Trust me. There’s not one guy in that clubhouse that goes out there and wants to give up a home run, wants to strikeout. We all want to win. But I hear a lot of, ‘You’re doing a great job.’ Positive. Things will turn around. I say, 'Thank you. Appreciate it.' I can tell you one thing, the guys are there to play hard.”

Anyone hurling tomatoes at him in the grocery store? Does he have bad interactions?

“If I did, I wouldn’t tell you, one,” Martinez said with a smile. “And two, you really don’t listen. I don’t even hear most of the stuff that’s going on during games. I really don’t.”

It’s that insular mentality that can help managers survive when the heat is cranked up around them. For Martinez, it’s worrying about “the boys” and not external noise. Chicago’s Joe Maddon prefers “circling the wagons” in a pressurized environment. In New York, where the subpar Nationals open a four-game series Monday night against the stumbling Mets, manager Mickey Callaway is taking shots head-on. MLB Network’s around-the-league show “Quick Pitch” showed Saturday night clips when the Mets announcers called the game “rock bottom.” The Mets were shut out the next day, and he was asked postgame about his job status on both Saturday and Sunday.

Martinez does not use social media. In his free time, he prefers to go hunting or fishing, not scroll through his phone to see any commentary about his job performance. Maddon, his mentor turned antagonist, felt waves early in Tampa Bay and even in Chicago when the Cubs careened to a 2-7 start this year, the last of his contract. He also stays away from Twitter and the radio dial.

“For me, it’s always about circling the wagons,” Maddon said. “As long as you’re pleased with what’s going on within the group, that’s all that matters. Quite frankly, talk radio, social media, that doesn’t matter. If you permit that to matter, that’s kind of your own fault. That’s there for entertainment purposes. That’s there to promote the game. Good. Barroom banter is tremendous. It’s necessary. I get it. But when it comes to running an organization, if you permit noise from the outside to impact your decisions inside, you deserve your fate.”

Rumblings around Martinez have leveled in the last week. A split in Los Angeles pushed back a miserable sweep in Milwaukee. A series win against Callaway’s Mets produced mathematical progress as opposed to any moralistic claims. A tight series against the Cubs ended with a 6-5 loss Sunday. The baseball since Los Angeles has been better.

That doesn’t remove Martinez from outside conversations about his, and the team’s, future. As things cook in New York, the Nationals remain in a desultory spot of eight games under .500 and eight games out. The coming schedule and recently increased health suggests opportunity. Tussling with the Mets is followed by Miami’s arrival at Nationals Park for four games. A quick two-game trip to Atlanta follows. 

Asked about Martinez’s situation, Maddon turned to the space most have pointed at this season: the bullpen. His words were delivered Friday afternoon.

“Love the team on the field,” Maddon said. “Love the talent on the field. Even without [Bryce] Harper being here. Their system has been outstanding. The young players are high-end. I think before you get all weirded out about Davey, let’s get a bullpen that plays consistently well. Then, you can find out what you got. I’m telling you, man, you could do everything right in a ballgame as a manager -- whether it’s pre the game or during the game, that if you can’t get those outs in the latter part of the game, it’s extremely frustrating for everybody.”

The Nationals bullpen was clobbered that evening. It remains last in the league in ERA by a large margin. 

If a Washington turnabout is nigh, it may come from a combination of further roster bolstering (Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman returning), the bullpen progressing to the mean and Juan Soto looking more like the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year runner-up. The two first basemen are close to ready. It would be hard for the bullpen to be worse. Five hits in three games for the 20-year-old Soto have him appearing back on track.

In New York, Callaway has little to lean on. His team picked up three hits in two games against lowly Miami during the weekend. Sunday, outspoken starter Noah Syndergaard came to his defense.

"I respect the hell out of Mickey," Syndergaard told reporters Sunday. "Mickey has tremendous leadership values. It's kind of [expletive] what's going on right now with this speculation that there could be a change because we're so early in the season and just one very small step away from putting this all together. It's certainly not on him."

Martinez has not arrived in that territory. Yet. But on the way there -- or out -- he’ll try to use a common tactic of building walls to prevent the outside from seeping inside.

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Nationals Roundup: Nats' spirited comeback falls short in rubber match against Cubs

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Nationals Roundup: Nats' spirited comeback falls short in rubber match against Cubs

The Washington Nationals lost to the Chicago Cubs, 6-5, Sunday to drop their record to 19-27.

Consider these news and notes as Washington hits the road for New York: 

Players Notes:

NATIONALS: 

Anthony Rendon gave Washington's offense a much-needed lift in the 6th launching a 3-run homer off Kyle Hendricks. After an initial rusty patch when returning from the injured list, he is back to his normal self and one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League.

Things continue to unravel for starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. The veteran lasted just three innings Sunday night, allowing four hits, three runs and three walks. Just 30 of his 64 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Howie Kendrick isn't showing any signs of slowing down. The 35-year-old blasted a laser home run to left to pull the Nats to within one run in the 7th. So far this season, Kendrick is hitting a long-ball every 15 at-bats. 

CUBS: 

Kyle Hendricks had it going up until the sixth inning when one Anthony Rendon swing made it a two-run ballgame. Hendricks pitched 5.2 innings allowing four runs on six hits. 52 of his 83 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Anthony Rizzo blasted a 385-foot home run in the third, good for his 11th of 2019. 

Chicago's relief pitching took care of business after Hendricks' night was done. The combination of Brandon Kintzler, Xavier Cedeno, and Steve Cishek held the Nats to just three hits down the stretch. 

Injuries: 

RP Justin Miller: shoulder, expected to be out until at least May 31

SP Anibal Sanchez: hamstring, expected to be out until at least May 27

OF Andrew Stevenson: back, expected to be out until at least May 24

RP Tony Sipp: oblique, expected to be out until at least May 20

1B Matt Adams: shoulder, expected to be out until at least May 22

1B Ryan Zimmerman: foot, expected to be out until at least May 23

RP Koda Glover: elbow, expected to be out until at least May 25

RP Trevor Rosenthal: viral infection, Expected to be out until at least May 21

RP Austen Williams: shoulder, expected to be out until at least Jun 13

Coming Up:

Monday, 5/20: Nationals @ Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field 

Tuesday, 5/21: Nationals @ Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field 

Wednesday, 5/22: Nationals @ Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field 

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