Twenty-four hours after Davey Martinez explained why he was keeping Victor Robles in the ninth spot in the batting order early this season, the Washington Nationals’ second-year skipper penciled the rookie outfielder in as the leadoff man in the series finale with the San Francisco Giants.
Granted, Adam Eaton, who led off in every one of the 16 games this season before Thursday afternoon, and put up a .319/.397/.406 in those appearances, was getting a day off, so Robles will likely return to the ninth spot next time out, but a segment of the fan base that has clamored for the 21-year-old to be moved out of the so-called “second leadoff spot” got what they wanted for at least one day.
Martinez told reporters on Wednesday that he’d liked what he’d seen from Robles hitting in the ninth spot in the lineup thus far.
“We thought about [moving him up],” the manager explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, “but then again, he’s a young hitter and he’s doing well.”
“He’s been successful hitting ninth, so why change something? He’s getting on base for us. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the 9-hole. I like him there. I like him hitting in front of Adam Eaton, and now [Anthony] Rendon and [Juan] Soto. At this point right now, I really don’t want to mess with him. I want him to just keep playing the game, having fun and doing the things he has been doing.”
Robles entered play on Thursday with a .278/.339/.556 line, four doubles, one triple, three home runs, four walks, and 18 Ks in 60 plate appearances on the season.
Martinez also talked recently about why he likes Eaton up top, after the veteran put together 10 and nine-pitch at bats in a strong showing this past weekend.
“He was swinging at balls in the strike zone,” Martinez said.
“He’s got to lay off the balls up, and when he gets balls in the strike zone, he puts good at bats up. That’s why I like him up in that leadoff spot, because he could run 8-9-10-pitch at bats, and also get a hit after that, but he’s just really good up there.”
Martinez told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writer Sam Fortier, before the series finale with the Giants that he talked to Robles before the game and told him to keep doing what he’d been doing regardless of the move to the top spot.
“He’s ready to play. He’s right now what Adam Eaton was when he was a lot younger. He’s moving really well. He’s doing the things he’s capable of doing for us. He’s getting on base for us, getting hits for us, he’s playing good defense. I know he’s feeling good when he’s trying to steal bases. We want to keep Eaton that way.”
“We had a conversation with him, ‘Hey, continue to do what you’ve been doing. Get on base, have good at-bats. Don’t try to do too much.’”
Robles struck out in his first at bat in the leadoff spot this season, K’d looking in the third, then doubled in the fifth, taking a 1-0 fastball from Drew Pomeranz out to left on a line.
He ended the day 1 for 5 with 2 Ks, leaving him with a .271/.328/.542 line after 17 games and 65 plate appearances.
Will he be back in the ninth spot in the lineup when the Nationals and Marlins start their three-game set tonight?