Monday, September 30, 2019

The circuitous playing career of Dave Martinez ended in 2001 when he suited up for his ninth team in 16 seasons. It was his only year under future Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves — but the lessons the Nationals manager learned then remain.

“He was the same guy I worked for every day,” Martinez said Monday of the steady Cox.

That one-day-at-a-time approach has brought Martinez and his Nationals, after a rocky season start, to Tuesday night’s winner-take-all wild card game at Nationals Park with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The survivor earns a trip to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers Thursday in the five-game National League Division Series.

It’s the first wild card appearance for Washington, which won four National League East division titles from 2012-17, and the Nationals come into the contest as a testament to the sometimes corny logic of Martinez, who told his team, after the slow start, to focus on going 1-0 every day.

“It has won us a lot of games this year,” general manager Mike Rizzo said of his manager’s one-at-a-time philosophy.

“I think a lot of managers try to approach it like that, the 1-0 mentality,” reliever Daniel Hudson told The Washington Times. “But it is the first time it resonated with me, for some reason.”

Hudson broke into the majors in 2009 with the Chicago White Sox and last appeared in the playoffs in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now he is part of a team that was 19-31 in late May, but ended the year with eight straight wins.

“We celebrate each win,” Hudson said. “But as soon as we finish celebrating we start thinking about tomorrow.”

Tomorrow for the Nationals arrives Tuesday at 8:08 p.m., with ace right-hander Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92) taking the mound in front of a home crowd.

“(Scherzer) loves the spotlight,” Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart said. “He relishes it. It is a testament to his huge heart and fight.”

Scherzer allowed just one earned run in six innings on May 6 at Milwaukee in a game the Brewers won, 5-3. In his career against Milwaukee, Scherzer is 2-2 with 2.29 ERA in nine games, with eight starts.

Brewers slugger Ryan Braun is 0-for-14 against Scherzer and fellow outfielder Lorenzo Cain is 0-for-15. Cain (left ankle) said Monday he is not sure if he will be able to play. Braun is dealing with a sore calf muscle, but manager Craig Counsell said he will be in the lineup.

The Brewers will be without National League batting champion Christian Yelich, who missed the last few weeks of the season after he fouled a ball off his kneecap.

“(The Brewers) are a good team,” Martinez said. “They can beat you in many ways.”

Scherzer will be opposed by Brewers right-handed starter Brandon Woodruff (11-3, 3.62). The 26-year-old from Mississippi is 2-0, 0.96 in four games, with two starts, in his career against Washington.

Woodruff made one start against the Nationals this season, allowing just one run and four hits in six innings at home May 8.

The Brewers will be ready to use their bullpen while Washington is prepared to use top starters Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin out of the bullpen if need be.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than this,” Brewers pitcher Brent Suter said of the one-game duel. “It makes you live in the moment.”

Nationals shortstop Trea Turner said the season-long fight to climb back into postseason contention made the team tougher.

“You have to come to the field every single day and battle and I think we did that,” Turner said. “The full body of work has been impressive.”

Turner credits a veteran club, including Ryan Zimmerman, Kurt Suzuki and Howie Kendrick.

“No panic in the team,” Turner said.

Washington reliever Tanner Rainey said members of the bullpen will be ready from the first inning on Tuesday.

“Words can’t really describe it,” Rainey said of the season. “Especially where we were in May. There are no words for it.”

Martinez has the same approach for Tuesday.

“I am ready to go 1-0,” he said.


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