Going into last night’s series opener in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Washington’s Nationals had more wins in the previous 42 games (30-12) than Baltimore’s Orioles (28-65) had overall on the season, but second-year skipper Davey Martinez was clear before the game that his club was not taking anything for granted.
“We can’t let the guard down,” Martinez said. “They’re a major league team, and they’ve got very good young players that are trying to make names for themselves, and after watching some of the video and stuff, they can hit. They’ll swing the bat. So we have to come out and play baseball, like we’ve been playing and take care of ourselves.”
The Nationals’ run, which started on May 24th, and over which they have the best record in the majors, left them 49-43 heading into the opener with the O’s, with wins 12 of their last 15, 17 of their last 22, and 26 of their last 37 games. They were 7.5 games out in the NL East going into the first of two in Baltimore, with a +2.0 game lead in the NL Wild Card race.
The Orioles were just 10-26 in their previous 36, going back to June 1st, and they started the two-game set 31.5 games back in the AL East.
It was a one-run, 2-1 game, through five, but the Nationals scored two in the sixth, then put up four more over the final three innings to build up a seven-run lead.
Juan Soto homered off starter Asher Wojciechowski (two pitches after fouling a ball off his own shin) and Brian Dozier singled with two down in the sixth, stole second, took third on an errant pick attempt, and scored on a balk to make it 4-1 before an RBI double by Anthony Rendon in the seventh, an RBI single by Victor Robles in the eighth, and an RBI hits by Soto and Matt Adams in the ninth made it 8-1.
“They were good at bats,” Martinez said of his hitters’ approach late in the game.
“Soto fouls the ball off his foot, comes back and stays through the baseball and hit the ball a long way, so, but once again Anthony is Anthony, drives in some big runs for us and gets us going and everybody seemed like the at bats got better as the game went along.”
Going into the season, there were questions about how the Nationals, who lost some of the power in their lineup over the winter, would score runs, but Martinez, whose squad is in the middle of the pack among NL teams in most offensive categories (8th in runs scored, 8th in HRs, 9th in RBIs, 7th in AVG, 4th in OBP, 7th in SLG, 6th in wOBA, and 7th in wRC+), said he’s happy with what he’s seen in terms of his team’s approach at the plate.
“We’ve hit the ball really well,” Martinez told reporters, “but I always say we have to do the little things, and those two guys at the top of the order [Trea Turner and Adam Eaton], they get on base, they make things happen, and you’ve got Anthony, who’s hitting for power, but also driving the ball the other way, he’s hitting his doubles. Juan, as you saw in that last inning, taking a base hit to left field, those things matter. We’re going to hit home runs, but it’s the at bats in-between that we need to put good at bats together.”
Will the Nationals put together good at bats, string together some hits, or hit a few more out of Oriole Park tonight in the second of two in Camden Yards?