Putting a run on the scoreboard in the first inning is definitely a good sign for the Washington Nationals these days. It usually means either Trea Turner or Adam Eaton — or both — are getting on base and fueling the Nats’ offense.
When Turner singled to open the first for the Nationals and extend his hitting streak to nine games, he instantly put pressure on Marlins’ rookie pitcher Humberto Mejía, who was lucky to have some good defense behind him at that point. Well-struck balls from Adam Eaton and Juan Soto both became outs, with center fielder Lewis Brinson making a leaping catch to rob Soto of a home run. Turner came around to score on Howie Kendrick’s double, and the Nats had an early lead for the third time in the past four games.
It was just a sample of the day to come for Turner, who went 3-for-3 and was hit by a pitch to raise his batting average to .316 and his on-base percentage to .387.
The Nats’ shortstop also upped his season RBI total to 13 with a second-inning single that scored Luis García and a fifth-inning triple that scored Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles.
“When Trea and Adam Eaton do their thing at the top of the lineup, we score runs, and they both did well today,” Manager Davey Martinez said afterward. “Those two guys are the catalysts, and when they go we go.”
Eaton got into the act in the fourth, yanking a 1-2 pitch down the right field line for a double that scored García, who led off the inning with a single, and Turner, who was hit by a pitch.
Eaton finished 1-for-4 with a walk and has now hit in seven of his past ten games, raising his average from .200 to .230. He’s also scored half of his 12 runs in that span.
Eaton said afterward that he’s beginning to cope with lack of fans and live reactions because of COVID restrictions.
“Usually we kind of ride that wave of emotion from the fan base, but with no fans there, it’s kind of stagnant,” Eaton said. “Trying to get up to speed as quick as I can, and I feel like I’ve been feeling better as of late.”
Martinez says the key for Eaton is staying in the strike zone.
“We talked to him about swinging at strikes. He was swinging at a lot of balls outside the strike zone. The last few days he’s been trying to get the ball down where he’s good, and keeping the ball in the strike zone, and when he does that he hits the ball really hard.”
Having the the top two hitters in the order reach base consistently also gives more players opportunities to contribute. Juan Soto hasn’t driven in a run in this series, but after his long flyout in the first, Howie Kendrick made the most of a 1-0 four-seam fastball, and drove it to the right field scoreboard to bring in Turner.
Martinez hopes a hot top of the order translates into more runs and more wins.
“When they get going, we start scoring some runs, and today was the perfect example and a good thing to see that both of those guys were on base a lot,” he said.