Given a chance to work with a designated hitter in the lineup for the first two games of the World Series in Houston, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez decided to give a couple starts to Asdrúbal Cabrera.
Cabrera had been used sparingly in the postseason, though he’d put up some impressive numbers with the Nats after he signed in early August, following his release by the Texas Rangers.
Cabrera, 33, put up a .323/.404/.565 line with 10 doubles, six home runs, 19 walks, and 18 Ks in 38 games and 146 plate appearances after joining the Nationals, but he started only two games and was 1 for 9 in October before getting the nod at second base in Tuesday night’s series opener.
“I like the left-handed bat, obviously today,” Martinez said, with right-hander Gerrit Cole on the mound in Game 1.
“Cabrera has had some big hits for us. Even in the postseason, didn’t play much but when he did, he hit the ball really well. I wanted him back in the lineup.”
“Since we got him he’s been unbelievable,” the second-year manager added.
“I had a conversation with him when he got here. I told him how we were going to utilize him. Never played first base before. I told him that he might have to play some first base.
“He said, ‘Give me a day to go out there and work on it.’ And he went out there with Tim Bogar, and he looked like a natural.
“We stuck him out there, he was good. Put him in the middle of our lineup, drove in some big runs for us, really big runs for us down the stretch.
“For me, it’s just another guy that fits with the rest of the club.
“He brings that veteran presence. He brings that fun-type atmosphere that we love, that our clubhouse has been built around. So he just fits and I appreciate everything he’s done.”
Cabrera went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts in the first World Series game in Nats’ franchise history.
He said before Game 2 with the Astros that he wasn’t worried about playing time at this point, considering where the Nationals find themselves.
“I’m really happy to be where we are right now. I mean, this is my 13th season. I think that’s a dream for everybody that plays baseball,” Cabrera said of his first trip to the World Series.
Going into the second game in Minute Maid Park, the veteran infielder was facing a starter, in Justin Verlander, against whom he’d had some success in the head-to-head matchup in their respective careers, going 21 for 76 (.276/.345/.474) with six doubles and three homers, but he said beforehand that most of those at bats came a while back, which they did, with 66 of those 76 ABs between 2007-2015.
“That’s long time ago,” he said. “[Verlander is] one of the best pitchers in the league, I faced him a lot, he throws hard on those moments. And I’m going to be aggressive in the count, swing good pitch, try to do all the best to help the team to win.”
Though it is his first trip to the World Series in his career, as he mentioned, Cabrera said he wasn’t nervous on the biggest stage in baseball.
“I thought I would be nervous early but as soon as the game is started, for me I’m putting my mind on the game,” he explained.
“Maybe a little bit more pressure. Excited to be here, trying to focus and try to doing my best, like I did in the regular season.”
Cabrera went 2 for 5 with three RBIs in Game 2 of the World Series, going 0 for 3 with three Ks vs Verlander before singling off reliever Ryan Pressly in the seventh to drive in two runs, and then singling again to drive in one more in the eighth, putting the Nationals up 11-2 in a 13-2 win.