Nationals manager Dave Martinez returns to dugout days after heart procedure

Ben Weinrib
·Yahoo Sports Contributor
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez (4) watches from the dugout during a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Nationals manager Dave Martinez returns Friday from a heart procedure he underwent earlier in the week. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Less than a week after undergoing a heart procedure, Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez will return to the dugout for a playoff push.

Martinez left Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning after feeling chest pains. He was quickly brought to a hospital to undergo a cardiac catheterization and stayed hospitalized in Washington until Tuesday.

The Nationals did not initially give a timetable for Martinez’s return, but general manager Mike Rizzo said the second-year skipper felt upbeat as of Tuesday.

Bench coach Chip Hale — who managed the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015 and ‘16 — took over on Sunday and managed the Nats’ series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Washington split the four games and remain atop the wild-card standings.

As's Jamal Collier reported, Hale stayed in touch with Martinez while he was recovering at home. Martinez texted in the lineup before games, and Hale even left the manager's office and spot on the bus open.

Nationals gearing up for close playoff race

With Martinez’s return, the Nationals have only 11 games left in the regular season — barring a tie that could force a Game 163.

As of Friday morning, the Nationals hold a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the first wild card spot with the Chicago Cubs only one game behind their division rivals. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets are also longshots within six games of the Nats.

The Nationals technically still have a chance to win a fifth NL East title, but they would have to win out with the Atlanta Braves losing all their games to do so.

Holding onto the top wild-card spot will be key, as it would allow Washington to host the single-elimination game. Then the Nats would likely have the privilege of facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in a five-game series.

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