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NEW YORK (AP) — Dave Martinez's theatrical exit brought life to Washington's bats Thursday, sparking a late rally against the New York Mets.
Nothing seems to be able to solve the club's bullpen woes, though, and that has the Nationals' second-year manager working from a wobbly seat.
Martinez was ejected in the eighth inning of a 6-4 loss to the New York Mets, making quite a scene at the onset of a three-run, eighth-inning comeback by the Nats that was undone by yet another blown save.
Plate umpire Bruce Dreckman rang up Washington's Howie Kendrick for a strikeout as he tried to check his swing, then tossed the veteran player. Martinez charged from the dugout, spiked his hat and kicked dirt on home plate during an extended, heated argument.
"I just didn't think he swung," Martinez said. "We just got into it. All I did was tell him to ask for help. That's why the first base umpire is there. He didn't like it."
Washington trailed 3-1 at the time and had already lost four in a row. Immediately after Martinez got ejected, the Nationals rallied for three runs against Robert Gsellman (1-0), a spurt capped by Gerardo Parra's pinch-hit, two-run single for a 4-3 lead.
The Nats' bullpen blew it in New York's final at-bat for the third straight game. This time, Wander Suero (1-4) allowed a three-run, eighth-inning homer to Carlos Gómez before Washington went down 1-2-3 against closer Edwin Díaz for his 12th save.
After opening the season with postseason aspirations, the Nats fell to 19-31, a record better than only the Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.
Asked who was culpable for that start, Martinez said "you can't put a blame on one thing. You really can't. This is a team thing."
Veteran infielder Brian Dozier agreed, and he was brief when asked about Martinez's job security.
"He's a hell of a manager," Dozier said. "I got his back any day."
Martinez also defended a baserunning blunder by Dozier, one of several fundamental mistakes by Washington. Dozier scored Juan Soto with a bunt in the sixth inning on a strange play where second baseman Adeiny Hechavarría dived and flipped the ball over first baseman Pete Alonso's head.
Dozier took second, walked a bit toward third while Mets pitcher Steven Matz scooped up the ball, then took off for third. Matz seemed startled for a moment, then threw to third to easily retire Dozier.
"I was walking out about halfway and Matz had his head down with the ball," Dozier said. "And I quickly realized I'm not as fast as I used to be. He made a really good play. I think it was a smart play, and just a really good execution by them."
Martinez said he didn't mind the "ultra-aggressive" move. He was more bothered by the latest blown save, Washington's NL-most 10th of the season.
Suero's meltdown came a night after closer Sean Doolittle — the only reliable piece in that 'pen this season — blew a 1-0 lead Wednesday in the eighth inning. The bullpen also gave up a pair of late leads Tuesday in a 6-5 defeat.
"We have to find a guy in that seventh and eighth to get the ball to Doolittle," Martinez said. "That's the bottom line."
In order to win 90 games, the Nationals would have to go 71-41 the rest of the way, a .634 winning percentage.
"I've seen other teams do it," Martinez said. "We're not out of it. That's for sure. I can tell you that right now. Every day we're close, we compete, we're in every game. Now we just have to finish games."
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