Turn-on: With a single as part of the Washington Nationals’ big, ten-run fifth on Wednesday, Trea Turner extended his on-base streak to 22-straight games, over which the Nats’ 26-year-old shortstop has gone 31 for 91 (.341/.408/.538) with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, and 11 walks in 103 plate appearances.
Since he returned from a 39-game stint on the Injured List for a broken right index finger on May 17th, the Nationals are 47-30, going from an 18-25 record to 65-55 after their fourth win in a row on Wednesday.
So how big a role has Turner played in that turnaround?
“You lose your leadoff hitter and your shortstop who is your middle of the field guy for seven-plus weeks, and then get him back and he didn’t — he only played a couple of handful of games and comes back and starts doing what he’s doing,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said on Wednesday, “that’s huge for us. It really was. And then things started clicking. We started getting healthy and getting everybody back, so like I’ve said, the biggest thing is that nobody pointed fingers when things were going bad.
“We were playing, they were playing hard, we were in every game, so I’m proud of where we’re at right now, I’m proud of the boys sticking with one another, and here we go, let’s keep going.”
Bench Role Players: The Nationals’ bench has been a big part of their success this season as well, and the latest addition (though he’s been starting a lot in the last week), Asdrúbal Cabrera, has stepped right in and fit in nicely since the 33-year-old infielder signed on to return to Washington after he was released by the Texas Rangers.
Cabrera is 8 for 21 with four doubles in six games (five starts) since joining the Nationals, and he’s given the Nats’ skipper a nice option with Brian Dozier dealing with an illness and awaiting a new addition to his family.
Martinez talked about the signing after Cabrera went 3 for 5 with two doubles in the win over the Reds on Wednesday, touching on the infielder’s contributions and the bench he has to to work with now.
“Awesome,” he said of Cabrera’s effort in the finale with Cincinnati. “Great pickup. I’m glad [GM Mike] Rizzo called me and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about Cabrera?’ ‘Hey, if you think he can help, get him.’ I mean, and he’s been unbelievable. All these guys. Some of these guys don’t play, all of a sudden now our bench, we talked about this earlier, our bench, I think they’ve got 5,000 hits a piece with everybody and that’s pretty impressive. It’s unbelievable. So it’s kind of nice you can look down there and say, ‘You’re going to pinch hit now,’ ‘You’re going to pinch hit now,’ or, ‘You’re playing today,’ and to have those guys, those veteran guys, that can do that.”
[ed. note - “Fact Check - “The Nationals’ bench bats: Howie Kendrick (1,686), Cabrera (1,614), Gerardo Parra (1,301), and Kurt Suzuki (1,302 - who has played slightly less than Yan Gomes), have combined for 5,903 hits total in their careers, so not ‘a piece’, though Martinez was, of course, speaking extemporaneously, and we try not to nitpick that kind of thing, except in this case, when we decided to point out that the stats he cited were actually slightly more impressive than he was saying.”]
Rizzo, by the way, talked about Cabrera’s addition, and some of the other moves he’s made this season to try to shore up weak spots on the roster or react to the situations the team’s found itself in over the first 121 games, when he was asked what he thought the best move he’s made so far was in an interview this week.
“We’ve made a lot of moves this year, we really have,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning.
“It’s kind of by — some were by design, some were by necessity. Cabrera — with Howie down and [Ryan Zimmerman] down, we kind of needed a right-handed bat, an upgrade from what we had. Cabrera was available. I know the kid’s make-up, I know his clutch performance, he’s not afraid to get a big hit. He can play third, short, and second, he switch hits, he gives Davey a lot of options off the bench. So he was a really good fit for us. Parra was a really good fit, left-handed hitter, can play three outfield positions well, and first base, doesn’t strike out, gives you a good at bat, good make-up, good energy guy, so all those things come into play.
“Again, some of them are by necessity, some of them are planned, and I can’t really put my finger on what was the best trade that we made or the best acquisition that we made, but I’m just glad that a lot of them have worked out and fit nicely into the clubhouse, and we’ve really got a special thing going in the clubhouse, and I’m not sure if it’s the chicken and the egg — if good clubhouse chemistry comes from winning or winning begets good clubhouse chemistry, but we’ve got it this year, and with the veteran guys like Dozier and [Max] Scherzer and Zim and those guys combined with the new guys like Parra and Aníbal Sánchez and Fernando Rodney and that group have really taken the young guys under their wing, they’ve really helped them become big leaguers. The emergence of [Wander] Suero has a lot to do with Fernando Rodney, he’s taken him under his wing, and you’ve got yourself a veteran group out there with [Hunter] Strickland and [Daniel] Hudson and that group, so it’s been a lot of — we’ve had a lot of moving parts this year, but I think that they’re all fitting together and hopefully they’ll all emerge at the same time, and come to the end of the season strong and take it into the playoffs and take it from there.”
Speaking of the playoffs or postseason: Rizzo also talked with the Junkies this week about the remaining games on the schedule, including seven more with the NL East’s first-place Braves, who currently hold a 5.5 game lead over the second-place Nationals (who are four games back in the loss column, though they were five back when Rizzo spoke), four more with the Phillies, who are 1.0 game out for the second spot in the Wild Card race, and series with the Miami Marlins (two series, six games), Milwaukee Brewers (63-58), Pittsburgh Pirates (50-70), the Chicago Cubs (64-57), Baltimore Orioles (39-82), New York Mets (62-59), Minnesota Twins (73-48), St. Louis Cardinals (63-56), and Cleveland Indians (73-49).
“It sounds trivial and cliche-ish, but we’re thinking about the Reds today, and we win this game today,” which they did, completing the sweep of Cincinnati, “and we’ve got a day off Thursday and we’ll think about the Brewers coming in on Friday, so take it day-by-day. We said it when we sat in Spring Training ... this thing is going to be a dogfight, this division is no joke, this Wild Card thing is going to be — is no joke. There’s a lot of teams that are kind of grouped together in that Wild Card race, we’re five back in the loss column of the Atlanta Braves, we haven’t lost sight of them. We still feel that that’s our main goal, is to win the National League East, and to play good baseball down the stretch, so you have to play the teams you play, we all play the same teams. I often say it’s not who you play, it’s when you play them, and who’s hot when you get there and who’s not, and I just think you have to continue to play good baseball, and win those close games, and just take care of your own business and not scoreboard watch so much, but just play good baseball and good things will happen.”