Leadoff hitters are supposed to get on base, and no one in the game is currently doing it as well as the Washington Nationals’ Trea Turner. But the rest of the Nationals’ lineup could not make it matter Saturday night, wasting opportunities to drive in Turner and other runners in every inning of a 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Turner went 5-for-5 — his third career five hit game — but scored only one run and was stranded four times. Turner extended his hitting streak to 14 games and his on-base streak to 20. During the hitting streak, he’s batting .473 (27-for-57) and his on-base percentage is .523.
Turner’s other five-hit games came on June 24, 2017 in an 18-3 win over Cincinnati and April 25, 2018, in a 15-2 win over San Francisco. Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, Mark Grudzielanek and Yunel Escobar are the other three players in Expos/Nationals histiry with three five-hit games.
“I felt like I got pitches to hit and I didn’t miss them,“ Turner said after the game. “I think tonight I just was just was good at executing that kind of game plan.”
“He’s just going out there, he’s being patient, but aggressive at the same time, getting balls in the strike zone,” said manager Davey Martinez.
Leading off the game, Turner hit the second pitch he saw from Boston’s Chris Mazza down the right field line to Fenway Park’s deep right field and cruised into second with a double. Juan Soto, batting behind him for the second night in a row, had a productive out with a fly ball to Fenway’s “Death Valley” that moved Turner to third. But there he stayed. Howie Kendrick came back from a 0-2 count to work a walk, but Asdrubal Cabrera struck out and Adam Eaton grounded out to end the threat.
The Red Sox put the pressure on Nats’ starter Anibal Sanchez right away, putting runners on second and third with one out before Xander Bogarts hit an 89-mph fastball at the top of the strike zone off the top of the Green Monster in left-center to make it 3-0 Boston.
After the Sox tacked on another run in the second, Turner’s second trip to the plate was more productive. This time, he waited out Mazza’s breaking balls to force a full count, then got an inside cut fastball he could drive, taking it to the left field corner for a double.
“The thing that stands out to me is he’s just using the whole field. He’s getting his hits everywhere. And that’s good,” Martinez said. “When he does that, and he stays behind the ball, he’s got unbelievable hands, so he’s able to hit the ball hard, and you saw it again tonight.”
Next up, Juan Soto worked the full count and got the weak contact Mazza intended with a comebacker. But hustling out of the box, Soto induced a bad throw to first from Mazza. Turner scored easily from second on the play, Soto took second, and the Nats were off on a big inning.
Howie Kendrick followed with a base hit to score Soto, extending Kendrick’s streak of games with an RBI to eight, and Kendrick scored on Adam Eaton’s single to make it 5-3.
It looked like the Nats were back in the game, but they could not solve the Boston bullpen, putting nine runners on base against six Red Sox’ relievers, but stranding all of them.
“We squared up the ball quite a bit tonight, and we were a hit or two away from either tying the game or being in the lead,” said Turner.
Turner led off the fourth with a ground ball single to left on a 1-2 pitch from Phillips Valdéz for hit No. 3, but Soto and Kendrick both struck out, and after Cabrera’s walk, Adam Eaton looked at strike three.
Turner’s fourth hit of the game, in the fifth inning, led to more frustration for the Nats.
Down 5-3 with two out, Kurt Suzuki on second and Eric Thames on first, Turner fouled off off a few 1-2 pitches before driving a curveball into left field. Nats’ third base coach Chip Hale sent Suzuki home on the play, but Alex Verdugo fired a perfect strike to Christian Vasquez for the out at home. Verdugo’s MLB-leading sixth outfield assist of the season came with Juan Soto and his 1.212 OPS in the on-deck circle.
“I thought Kurt was going to be safe by a mile,” said Turner. “But he made an unbelievable throw and really got behind it and put a lot on it, and put it right on the money, so you’ve got to tip your cap.”
“I was with Chip,” said Martinez. “I thought he should send him right there, I mean, just happened the guy made a good throw and put it right on the base. If the throw is up the line or something like that he scores, but he put it right on home plate.”
The Nats failed again to tie the game after Turner’s fifth hit, a sharp line drive to center. Soto followed with his second strikeout of the game, looking at a 96-mph fastball right down the middle for strike two, and swinging weakly at a fastball at the bottom of the zone to conclude the four-pitch at-bat. Kendrick flew out deep center, and Cabrera also flew out.
The Nats also had a chance to tie against Sox’ closer Matt Barnes, but after Kurt Suzuki drew a one-out walk, new acquisition Brock Holt struck out and Eric Thames grounded out to end the game.
Midway through the 60-game season, the Nats are 12-18 and in last place in the National League East. However, at five games behind first-place Atlanta, they have the smallest deficit of any last-place club.
“I like where we’re at. We still got a lot of games,” said Martinez. “But I’m proud of the guys. We talked about this before. It’s not an easy year. It’s difficult, and they’re coming out now, they’re showing up and they’re playing baseball.”