Davey Martinez had advice for Eric Thames over the weekend, as the hard-hitting slugger struggled to get going at the plate in his first season with the Washington Nationals.
“He’s doing everything he can to get his swing right,” Martinez said after Thames appeared frustrated with a well-struck liner in Baltimore that was caught near the right field wall.
“He hit a bullet,” Martinez continued. “He’s hit some balls hard this year, just right at people. So we’ve got to get him going.
“He’s going to play against right-handed pitchers. We just got to keep him going. I told him, I said, ‘Hey, I know it’s frustrating when you hit the ball hard, you want the ball to drop, you want a hit, you want to contribute, but you’ve got to stay right there. Don’t start changing different things,’ because he has hit the ball fairly hard every time he’s played. With him it’s just swinging at strikes. The biggest thing for Thames is getting a strike, and when he does that he typically hits the ball hard.”
Thames’ 2 for 5, three RBI game in Atlanta in last night’s 8-5 win was a nice start. Batting eighth, he singled to drive in a run the first time up, going back up the middle to bring a runner in from second.
Thames brought in a run with a bases-loaded groundout in the fifth, then went to left field with an 0-2 breaking ball from Mark Melancon to drive in a third run (the Nationals’ 8th of the game) in the ninth.
Did batting Thames eighth help take some pressure to produce off?
“I think we moved him down there just so he could relax a little bit. Not worry so much about being in the middle of the order, and he’s done well,” Martinez said after the win.
“We want to kind of get him going a little bit and I just want him to just relax and see good pitches and hit, and he’s done that.
“We’ll keep him there, we’ll keep getting him going. What I really like is that he’s really focused on staying in the middle of the field and not pulling off everything.
“If he can continue to do that, he’s going to hit for us. He’s hit before, and he’s going to start hitting home runs, so I like where he’s at right now.”
Contributing to the win had Thames beaming when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday night.
“It’s definitely awesome,” he said. “I feel like it’s been tough. I feel like I’ve had some good at bats where I just line out, or hit it right into the shift, or a guy makes a diving catch, or a great play against the wall like in Baltimore.
“And these are adding more pressure on yourself, trying to help contribute and kind of pull your weight. Today was big, being able to get some timely hits, and help the boys win.”
When you’re putting pressure on yourself, of course, you can sometimes make things worse if you’re tinkering and trying to make changes that will get things going.
“You hear guys all the time talk about it when they try to do too much, especially if you’re lining out, or having good at bats, but the results aren’t there, like you’re just missing balls, or you’re hitting it right at somebody,” Thames said.
“Guys start trying to do more, hit it harder, just do too much and that’s when you start really spiral out of control.
“Talking to Howie [Kendrick] and some of the older guys and there’s really nothing you can do.
“Baseball is a crazy game, all you can do is maintain what you’re doing and eventually the tides will turn. Baseball’s going to turn. All of a sudden you get jammed and it will be a blooper and two RBIs, and you’re all happy and smiling, or you get a lineout and a bullet right at somebody off a tough lefty, or something like that, and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s alright, you can’t control it.’ You’ve got to control the controllable.”
Thames is back in the eight-spot in the lineup for the Nationals in tonight’s series finale in Truist Park.