- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

With two weeks left in a tight wild-card race, the Washington Nationals remain without their manager.

Dave Martinez continues his recovery at home after a hospital visit and a minor heart procedure earlier this week while the Nationals play the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Martinez experienced chest pain Sunday during the Nationals’ home game, and team doctors advised him to go to a local hospital as a precaution. There, he underwent a cardiac catheterization, a diagnostic procedure to test for some heart conditions.

General manager Mike Rizzo told reporters Tuesday that medical testing didn’t reveal anything urgent or concerning about Martinez’s health, but he will not make it to St. Louis for the remainder of the series. Though there is no timetable set for Martinez’s return, he could rejoin the Nationals as soon as Friday when they travel to Miami for a three-game set against the Marlins.

Bench coach Chip Hale, the team’s top assistant, assumed managerial duties with Martinez out. Hale is experienced, having served as Arizona’s manager in 2015 and 2016.

“I’ve seen in situations in the past where guys, players, coaches have passed out or something. There was nothing like that,” Hale told reporters Monday. “(Martinez) just said, ‘I’m not feeling great,’ so let’s go check you out … There wasn’t anything that was that scary for anybody at that point. I think players started to notice, like, ‘Where’s Davey?’ So there was a time when nobody knew what was going on.”

Meanwhile, the Nationals lost to the Cardinals Monday and entered Tuesday with their grasp on the National League wild-card race threatening to slip away. They led the Chicago Cubs by just half a game and the Milwaukee Brewers by one. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies were each five behind Washington before Tuesday’s games.

Things already looked hairy before Martinez’s hospital trip. Can the Nationals right the ship without their manager?

When the Nationals awoke the morning of Sept. 2, they were 19 games above .500 and had realistic hopes of chasing down the Atlanta Braves for the NL East crown. But they went 5-9 over the next 14, including 2-5 against the Braves, to drop to 82-67 as the bullpen continued to give up runs late in close games.

There were calls for Martinez to be fired when the Nationals got out to a 19-31 start to the season, Martinez’s second as manager. But then Washington turned its season around with a red-hot summer, as Juan Soto blossomed into a star and All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon built his case for league MVP.

It will all mean nothing if a September collapse washes that progress away and causes the Nationals to miss the postseason for the second year in a row. With so much on the line, players are hoping their manager gets well soon.

“Hopefully he is doing great,” first baseman Howie Kendrick said when he first learned of Martinez’s hospital trip. “I love Davey.”

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