Going into the second game of three with the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night, Kurt Suzuki was (8 for 29) in his previous nine games, with a .276/.400/.276 line, five walks, and just two strikeouts over that period, which left him with a .266/.327/.458 line, seven doubles, 10 home runs, 16 walks, and 22 runs scored in his 52 starts this season, and hits in 14 of his last 20 starting assignments.
Suzuki went 3 for 3 the first three times up against the Giants in Oracle Park, singling, then hitting a home run, and connecting for another base hit off lefty Conner Menez, before he lined out the last time up in the Nationals’ 5-3 win.
His home run was a two-run blast off the Giants’ rookie starter that put the Nationals up 4-0 after three just when it looked like Menez might limit the damage after the first two Nats up that inning reached base and a run scored on a sac fly.
“Really important,” Davey Martinez said of Suzuki’s blast and the fact that the Nationals scored first and built up an early lead.
“When you come out and you score first and you score like that often,” he said, “it makes for the whole game — guys [start] to relax, get their at bats, work good at bats, and we did that yesterday as well, work good at bats.
“I always preach to these guys, score first, score first, and the last two days were a perfect example of that.”
Suzuki bounced back from an 0 for 3 night in the series opening win with a three-hit game that left him 5 for 11 with a home run and two walks in his three starts on the current road trip. His home run on Tuesday night was his 12th in 65 games and 233 plate appearances this season, matching his total in 105 games and 388 PAs in 2018 in Atlanta.
“He’s been awesome, he really has,” Martinez said of the catcher who signed a 2-year/$10M free agent deal with the Nationals this winter, after two solid seasons in Atlanta.
Suzuki’s sitting at 0.4 fWAR on the season after 2.3 and 1.0 fWAR campaigns for the Braves in the past two years, and he’s generated 104 wRC+, after 127 and 108 wRC+ seasons in 2017-18, giving him three of his four best seasons in terms of wRC+ (“which measures how a player’s wRC — which [attempts] to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs — compares with league average after controlling for park effects” as the folks at Fangraphs explain it.).
“And not just his hitting,” the Nats’ skipper added, “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.”
How does the 35-year-old, 13-year veteran continue to produce so consistently at this stage in his career, in what’s been a late-stage resurgence for the 2004 second round pick (by the Oakland A’s)?
Suzuki told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jamal Collier on Tuesday night, that a lot of it has to do with the way he goes about training and preparing every day.
“The one thing, I try to take care of my body, try to work out, take care of your body, eat healthy, do all the things that you do to keep yourself healthy in the game. But I think a lot of luck has to do with it, too.”
“He works really hard,” Martinez confirmed.
“He works on his swing, he works on his catching, he’s got a good program with [bullpen coach and former big league catcher] Henry [Blanco] that he does with his catching every day, but he works every day.”