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Washington Nationals’ catcher Kurt Suzuki keeps hitting; keeps impressing his skipper

“To be a catcher and to hit and catch like that,” Davey Martinez added, “that’s pretty hard to do.”

Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Kurt Suzuki hit his 12th home run of the season on August 6th, in a 5-3 win in San Francisco, CA’s Oracle Park, matching his total from 105 games and 388 plate appearances last season in Atlanta in his 65th game and 233rd plate appearance of 2019.

Washington’s second-year manager, Davey Martinez, talked after that game about how big an addition the 35-year-old, 13-year veteran has been for the Nationals, who signed Suzuki to a 2-year/$10M deal this winter after two impressive seasons behind and at the plate in Atlanta.

“He’s been awesome,” Martinez said, “he really has. And not just his hitting, but the way he’s been calling games, his leadership in the clubhouse, everything about him has been really, really good. I have no complaints about what he’s done for not just us on the field, but also off the field.”

What’s behind Suzuki’s late-career power resurgence? Between 2012-16, the backstop hit a total of 27 home runs in 580 games and 2113 PAs.

In the last three seasons, he’s hit 45 in 261 games and 977 PAs.

“He works really hard,” his manager said.

“He works on his swing, he works on his catching, he’s got a good program with [Bullpen Coach] Henry [Blanco] that he does with his catching every day, but he works every day.”

After a 2 for 4 game against Baltimore on Wednesday, in which he hit another home run and a double, Suzuki is 17 for 56 (.304/.350/.518) so far in August, with three doubles and three home runs in his last 60 PAs, leaving the catcher with a .268/.325/.472 line, 10 doubles, and 14 home runs on the season.

Suzuki said the credit lies with some of the coaches he’s worked with in the last few years, telling reporters, including MASN’s Byron Kerr, that he’s had talented hitting coaches both in Atlanta and D.C.

“I had some great hitting coaches over there that are still over there in Atlanta, [Braves hitting coach Kevin] Seitzer and [José Castro] over there. I’ve been kind of ragging [Nationals’ hitting coach] Kevin Long throughout my career. I’ve seen him all the time wondering when we’d be able to work together. Having him and [Assistant Hitting Coach] Joe Dillon here is phenomenal. I’ve learned new things, learned different things.”

“He’s good,” Martinez said on Wednesday, “because he understands — I think as you get older and you’re in this league for a long period of time, you start understanding who you are and what you can do. I think he’s at that point his career. He’s been that way for a while, but you watch him, for me he’s an RBI machine, he loves to hit with guys on base, he really does, and he takes pride in doing that, especially with guys on third base, he does not like leaving guys on third base with less than two outs, or any time.”

With runners in scoring position overall this season, Suzuki has a .347/.412/.611 line with a total of four doubles and five home runs. With men on overall?: .323/.382/.583.

With runners on third and less than two outs, he has a .375/.316/.813 line, and with two outs and runners on third, he has a .389/.450/.722 line.

“To be a catcher and to hit and catch like that,” Martinez added, “that’s pretty hard to do.”

Plus those dance moves: