Martin's debut with Nats a night to forget
Rookie righty struggles early, offense never recovers
WASHINGTON -- After eight-plus seasons in the Minor Leagues, right-hander J.D. Martin made his Major League debut on Monday night, and it was a rough debut, to say the least, as the Nationals lost to the Mets, 6-2, at Nationals Park.
Martin, who went just four innings and gave up five runs on eight hits, would like to forget the first two innings of the game. In the first, Daniel Murphy and Jeff Francoeur hit RBI doubles. In the next inning, Angel Pagan, Luis Castillo and Murphy hit RBI singles.
Martin's only clean inning was the fourth. Castillo flied out to left field, Murphy grounded out to first baseman Nick Johnson and David Wright struck out to end the frame.
"You never know what you're gonna get," Francoeur said. "I thought Martin did a good job hitting his spots, but we were able to jump on him early and probably made him feel uncomfortable. He came back and did a great job in the third and fourth."
Martin said that he was nervous early in the game, but he didn't use it as an excuse.
"I tried to stay calm, go out there and throw strikes," Martin said. "I tried to keep the ball down. Everything was kind of up in the beginning. I talked to [catcher Josh] Bard about it a little bit, and he said I needed to get the ball down and just let them hit it."
Interim manager Jim Riggleman felt that Martin had enough in the tank to pitch another inning, but Washington rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fourth, so Riggleman sent Alberto Gonzalez to pinch-hit for his starter.
"I thought [Martin] did OK," Riggleman said. "He composed himself. He got a little better as he went along."
Mets right-hander Livan Hernandez proved to be too much for the Nationals, pitching seven innings and giving up two runs on five hits. The two runs came in the fourth, when Bard doubled down the right-field line to drive in Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns.
The Nationals had other opportunities to score runs but couldn't get the job done. In the first inning, Washington had runners on first and second and one out, but Dunn hit into a double play to end the inning.
In the eighth, Washington had runners on first and second and no outs, but Dunn hit into another double play.
"That killed us tonight," Dunn said. "First inning, I had an opportunity, and I swung at a bad pitch and hit into a double play. The eighth inning, I did the same thing. That's going to be a tough one to swallow tonight."
In three starts against his former team this season, Hernandez is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA. After the game, he explained why he is having such success against the Nationals.
"The last three times, I pitched differently to these guys," Hernandez said. "You know the hitters are going to make adjustments based on the last time, so what I do is pitch backward this time."
Reliever Tyler Clippard was the bright spot for the Nationals, as he pitched three shutout innings and struck out five. Since joining the team on June 24, he has given up three earned runs in 12 2/3 innings. He also has 14 strikeouts during that span.
"I've been feeling good all season," Clippard said. "It's frustrating to get losses. We need a win badly. I was hoping to kind of keep us in there and maybe do something offensively. It didn't happen. Everybody is building toward victories, and that's the most important thing right now. We are frustrated as a team, but it will come around."
The Nationals have now lost 11 out of their past 12 games and dropped their record to 26-66.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.