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Washington Nationals’ veteran club closing in on spot in NL Wild Card game...

SB Nation logo SB Nation 9/23/2019 Patrick Reddington
Ryan Zimmerman holding a basketball © Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner, 26, talked after the series opener in Miami on Friday night, about the contributions second baseman Asdrúbal Cabrera, 33, has made to the team since the veteran infielder was added to the roster at the beginning of the month of August.

Cabrera had a 2 for 3 night in that game, hitting a three-run home run, leaving him with a .308/.383/.548 line, eight doubles, a triple, five home runs, 14 walks, 14 Ks, and 33 RBIs in 30 games (26 starts) and 104 plate appearances since he joined the Nationals on August 6th.

“Unbelievable,” Turner said of Cabrera’s contributions to that point.

“I don’t know the stats, but I’m pretty sure the RBIs are off the charts, and it just seems like every time there’s a clutch at bat that we need he comes through, and just a professional.

“I feel like the veterans we have on this team are just professionals, and sometimes I don’t know if they get enough credit because now the thing is to be young and do all sorts of stuff, but just the at bats that him, Howie [Kendrick], even [Ryan Zimmerman] that last at bat [against Marlins’ reliever Tayron Guerrero], guy throwing 100 and coming into the game and putting a good swing on the ball, I think that’s just what we’re all about.”

Kendrick, who turned 36 on July 12th, and Zimmerman, 34 for another week, are two of the elder statesmen on a roster that has MLB’s highest average age (29.8 years average acc. to ESPN). Zimmerman, talking to Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty back in July, said he thought veteran players are undervalued for a number or reasons, many of them related to salary concerns.

“Most teams would rather take a chance on a rotating door of young players that they can pay $550,000 and, if it doesn’t work out, you can option them down and try someone else out. I get that as a strategy. But I think with veterans you often know what you’re going to get. And it’s hard to analyze or put into an equation what their perspective can bring, helping young guys, knowing how the season goes, all of that.”

“We play this game, we’ve been around for a while, [and] we’ve learned a lot of things,” 35-year-old, 13-year veteran Kurt Suzuki said, after hitting a base-clearing double late in a 10-4 win on Saturday night in Miami. ‘“nd we might not necessarily be as agile or quick, but we feel like we’re pretty smart. We can think along with the game, and understand situations, what we need to do in certain spots, and I think for every team that’s huge to have.”

“Veteran guys are pretty valuable,” Zimmerman said on Saturday night.

“I think they’ve been devalued tremendously in this game, but guys like that know how to perform in certain situations. They’ve been there before, and they can be really valuable to teams.”

“We’ve got several guys that have done it before,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week, in discussing the stretch run and the work Davey Martinez and his club have done to get them into a position to play their way into the postseason in the Wild Card game if they can hold on for the next week.

“And I’ll tell you what,” Rizzo added, “... these guys are embracing it, they’re certainly not shying away from it, and they’re having fun, they’re enjoying it, and it’s fun to see this group interact and really come together and kind of really rally behind Davey’s illness and see this team go down the stretch and be really excited about it.”

Martinez missed time after experiencing chest pains during the finale of the Nationals’ last homestand and going to the hospital as a precaution, but after staying home to recuperate during the team’s trip to St. Louis, he rejoined the club in Miami, where the Nationals took two of three from the Marlins over the weekend.

The second-year skipper told reporters on Friday night that he was happy to be back with his club, to watch from the bench as they fight down the stretch.

“Much better being in the dugout,” Martinez said, “I can tell you that. It was a lot of fun, and I tell the guys, like I told them today, this game is about having fun, it really is, and I enjoy every minute of it, and just watching these guys play, every day, and what they do and how they go about their business, they have a good time and they love to play the game and you can tell that they play for each other, which is nice.”

“Now we’ve got a chance to do something special,” he added.

“We set our own destiny right now, so we’ve got to keep grinding, keep going, and we’ve got 10 more games and we’re going to keep fighting.”

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