Over three games in Chase Field in Arizona, Wilmer Difo went 6 for 14 with a double, a walk, three RBIs and three Ks, leaving him 6 for 14 (.429 AVG) on the year, five games into season No. 2 in the majors for the Washington Nationals’ 24-year-old infielder.
Tuesday night’s game was a big one for everyone in the Nats’ lineup, with the team scoring 10 runs total on 14 hits, but the Nationals’ young bats had an especially impressive night. Big time.
Difo, who started at second, and Trea Turner, who started in center, combined to go 5 for 10 with three runs scored and two RBIs in what ended up a 10-4 win.
Dusty Baker talked after the game last night about the contributions from two of the young members of the major league roster, starting with Difo, who got called up to the majors when Stephen Drew (vertigo) landed on the 15-Day DL last week.
In 96 games and 415 plate appearances at Double-A Harrisburg before he got the call, Difo put up a .255/.320/.343 line, with 14 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 26 steals in 37 attempts.
Difo started slowly this season, with a .194/.310/.236 line in April, a .248/.309/.283 line in May, and a .241/.293/.398 line in June, but he was on a bit of a hot streak before he came up, going 28 for 83 (.337/.378/.446) in 21 games in July.
“We liked him in Spring Training,” Baker said.
“I know [VP, International Operations] Johnny DiPuglia had signed him and is high on him. The organization is high on him. He had a down year last year because he was up here and didn’t play much and started off slow and then he came on real strong.”
To be fair, Difo put up respectable numbers in the minors 2015, with a .320/.386/.533 line in 19 games and 83 PAs at High-A Potomac and a .279/.312/.387 line in 87 games and 381 PAs at Double-A. He went just 2 for 11 in limited major league action.
Baker said the contributions from Difo and Turner have been important.
“You need that kind of production out of guys you’re not counting on really, because I went to him and I said, ‘Hey man, can you play second base? I know you haven’t played it...’ — but in Spring Training he played it and he says, ‘Yeah, I can play it.’ He would have told me he could catch if I asked him. He just wanted to get in the lineup.
“He had a heck of a night. He got us on the board. He was one of the guys, the only guys that could hit their pitcher. And so that was a big night for him, big night for us.
Baker was asked about the luxury of having players like Difo and Turner to plug in when a Drew lands of the DL or Harper’s scratched with an illness like he was before the second game of the series.
“Hey, man, this is what they’re getting paid for and they’re fulfilling their dream to be in the big leagues,” Baker said.
“And we were all young once upon a time. I love young guys. Cause I was a young guy. I was 19 years old in the big leagues. I’ve gotten criticism — I don’t know where it came from — that I don’t like young guys, but I like young guys that can play. You know what I mean. If they can play, as you see, I’ll play you.
“You need that young exuberance, you need their energy, you need their speed to kind of pick us up. To ignite some of the older guys. So that’s what they’ve given us.”
Difo and Turner were in the lineup for the series finale with the D-Backs as well, and catcher Pedro Severino started behind the plate with Max Scherzer on the mound.
Turner homered to get the Nationals on the board in the third with a 451 foot blast to left off of Zack Godley leaving him 24 for 77 (.312/.346/.494) so far in the majors.
Difo went 1 for 4 with a walk and a run scored (and 3 Ks).
Severino went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a walk, and, according to Nationals’ starter Max Scherzer, he did a good job defensively as well.
“Today, working with [Severino] the first time, it was great,” Scherzer told reporters.
“He did a great job behind the plate of getting me in rhythm and trying to get on the page with me and get some sequences right.
“When you have a young catcher really working with you and doing everything he can, he did a great job of — for me, really, getting those low pitches for me. He has a great low target and just made it very easy to throw the ball down in the zone today.”
“Our young players, they gave us a lot energy,” Baker added.
“[Severino] called a great game. Turner hit his second home run [in the majors]. That was huge. Difo continues to play well.
“Looks like they’re getting more and more comfortable. We certainly need them.
“We said that in Spring Training, that you’re going to need almost all 40 guys. I don’t know how many we’ve used this year, but you need them all to win this thing.”
Was he surprised by Turner’s power on the homer?
“No,” Baker said. “We saw it in Spring Training, but we don’t need his power.
“We don’t need him up in the air. I think he had six home runs in [Triple-A]. They want him up in the air. They don’t want him on the ground and line drive to use his legs.
“As you saw, he had the home run and then he struck out a couple times after that, so you just hope that they — especially the young guys — don’t get home run happy.
“Because their job is to get on base and if they hit a home run or two then that’s a bonus.”
• We talked about Difo, Turner, Severino and more on Nats Nightly:
FANDUEL: If you are going to play daily fantasy baseball on FanDuel, click THIS LINK HERE when you do and they'll know you came from Federal Baseball, an SB Nation site.
[ed. note - "Win cash in your first daily fantasy baseball league or get your entry fee refunded! Offered in partnership with FanDuel."]