Adam Eaton wrapped up the first half of the 2018 campaign with a 17 for 46 (.370/.431/.413) run over the first two weeks of July which left him with a .320/.387/.350 line in 28 game and 111 plate appearances since he returned from a 63-game absence as he dealt with an injury to his left ankle. He’d injured the ankle when he blew out his knee at first base a month into his time with the Nationals in April 2017, and then hurt it again after getting off to a hot start in his second season in D.C.
Overall on the season, the 29-year-old outfielder, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a late 2016 trade for pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning, has posted an impressive .323/.393/.415 line, with six doubles, two home runs, 10 walks, and 23 Ks over a total of 145 plate appearances.
Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez talked to reporters over the weekend about Eaton starting to round into form with regular at bats back at the top of the Nats’ lineup.
“He’s starting to be the Adam Eaton that we know he can be,” Martinez said.
“He’s moving around pretty good now. He’s a guy that gets on base. Pesky little hitter. Makes things happen. Him leading off is what we need.”
Eaton collected hits in 10 of 14 games going into the All-Star Break, with a five-game hitting streak over that stretch in which he was 11 for 20, though that ended in an 0 for 4 game in Sunday afternoon’s series finale in Citi Field.
Before the fourth of four with the New York Mets, Martinez talked about Eaton’s at bats as another sign the seven-year veteran is finding his game again.
“He’s been awesome,” the first-year skipper said.
“You can tell that’s he’s really starting to get back into the Adam Eaton that we know. His legs feel better, he’s running better, indication that he’s trying to steal bases now only tells me that he’s really starting to feel really good, but he works great at bats, he really does, he’ll do whatever it takes to get on base.”
Eaton talked after a three-hit game on Saturday night in New York about what the Nationals need to do in the second-half if they’re going to have a chance to make a run at a third NL East title in a row.
“Offensively, it’s gotta be better,” Eaton said. “I’ve touched on that since I’ve been back. We need to get those big hits, two-out hits, guys with runners in scoring position hits. Those are the hardest hits to get in all of baseball, but when you do them, the game looks easy.
“When you don’t do them, the game looks very difficult. I’d love to see the numbers of us with runners in scoring position and numbers with runners on base because I think that’s where you can really sit your hat on. I think the pitching staff has been tremendous. I think our bullpen has been tremendous, the back end of the bullpen has been tremendous. Our defense until the last week has been top five in Major League Baseball.
“If you really look at it, it’s just runners in scoring position -- guys stepping up and getting that big hit. I’m guilty of it as well. I’m leaving guys out there on base. You look at last year’s numbers, I’d love to see what we hit with runners in scoring position to this point last year because I bet it’s flipped.”
Washington’s Nationals, as a team, finished the first half with a .262/.348/.411 line with men on base, good for 6th/4th/7th across the line among NL teams, with a .252/.349/.400 line with runners in scoring position, which had them 6th/3rd/9th in the National League. Eaton said he expects there will be improvement in all areas once/when/if the Nats are able to get back to full strength.
“When we get [Ryan Zimmerman] back,” he said, “... and [Stephen Strasburg] back, that’s definitely going to help as well. I think Zim’s leadership on the field is tremendous for us. I think when [Daniel Murphy] is running regularly and hitting like he can, I think that’s huge for us as well. I think missing that leadership has been big for us. It’s just contagious, you know? When Zim’s up there, you have that confidence in him that he’s going to be the guy to get it done, and you don’t want to be the guy that doesn’t. Like I said, I think that type of leadership is missed and we’ll be excited to get them back.”