Andrew Stevenson started the final series of the 2021 season 15 for 47 (.319/.347/.447) with two home runs, two walks, and 14 Ks in 49 plate appearances as a pinch hitter this season.
The 15 hits for the 27-year-old, 2015 2nd Round pick were tied for second-most in the major leagues this year, matching former teammate Wilmer Difo, now with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and behind only Atlanta Braves’ outfielder Ehire Adrianza (16).
Overall on the year, Stevenson started the final series on the regular season schedule with a .223/.291/.315 line, five doubles, four homer runs, 13 walks, and 57 Ks in 106 games and 205 plate appearances.
Has his success as a pinch hitter this season gone underappreciated?
“He comes off the bench in big moments, and for the most part he gets the job done,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said on Friday afternoon.
“He’s got a knack for it, he really does,” Martinez added. “He understands the whole pinch hit role, so yeah, he’s definitely one of the guys that goes underneath the radar, but he’s got some big hits for us, he stole a few bases for us in the [times of] need, and plays the game the right way. Like I said, he’s one of the guys where, in the game all of a sudden we need him to pinch hit, he’s the first one against right-handed pitching to be called upon, because he’s done such a great job.”
Stevenson talked in early September about his ability to remain calm in big moments and come up with hits in tough spots.
“I try to just mellow out,” he explained. “Kind of the bigger spots, the way I kind of look at it is, the pitcher — he’s in more of a jam than I am for the most part. So I think in that situation it’s to my advantage, so I shouldn’t be the one feeling the pressure here, it should be on the pitcher. So that’s something that’s kind of helped me. Also that goes in hand with kind of my walk-up songs, they’re kind of a little bit slower, a little more relaxing, and I think I’m at my best when I’m relaxed at the plate, and going up there with a good plan.”
While he’s excelled in a pinch hitting role this season, Stevenson said after the game, in which he was 1 for 4 with a double, two Ks, and five left on base at the plate, with a few impressive catches in the outfield, that he would, of course, like to play every day in the future.
“It’s a role I’ve kind of fell into in the last few years,” he said of the bench/pinch hit role.
“You know, definitely kind of want to make that jump into being an everyday guy, but you know, as far as the role I’m in, I’m going to go out there and give you the best at-bat I can, make the play in the outfield, I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team with what I bring to the table, but you know I think the end goal is to definitely be an everyday guy, so we’re just going to keep working towards that and have a little fun while we’re doing that.”
Kyle Schwarber wasn’t in the nation’s capital for that long, playing in just 72 games after he signed a 1-year/$10M free agent deal with the Nationals last winter, but he made real noise over a ridiculous 18-game stretch in June when he hit 16 home runs in 77 plate appearances, an unreal run that caught the attention of the entire baseball world.
Schwarber was traded at the deadline in late July, to the Boston Red Sox in return for 20-year-old right-hander Aldo Ramirez, and he returned to D.C. this weekend after having hit .296 with nine doubles and seven home runs in 38 games and 154 PAs since he returned from a hamstring strain suffered while he was still with the Nationals.
Davey Martinez, who had history with Schwarber from the time the two spent together with the Cubs in Chicago, was happy to see the slugger back in Nationals Park.
“It was awesome to see him,” Martinez said. “I spent some time with him, he came my office, we sat down and talked a lot, and it was kind of good to see him. You see this guy and he’s got so much energy, he always puts a smile on your face, but it was good to see him. I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to throw as many lefties at you as we possibly can.’ And he started laughing, he said, ‘I’m playing left field today, so that’s good.’ So I said, “Alright, good.’ But it’s always fun to see him. We laughed and joked around for about 20 minutes, and it was good to see him. I know he went and said hello to a bunch of his old teammates, but I think the fans are going to appreciate him tonight, and I’m sure they’re going to be loud for him, and hopefully give him a loud ovation. He deserves it. He played well for us while he was here.”
Soto Knows Everyone Is Watching:
Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty shared a quote from Juan Soto on Friday with the 22-year-old slugger talking about running from second halfway home on an inning-ending groundout, and why he chose to run it out like that knowing that his teammates would be watching him. Put simply, he wants to set a good example:
“One day I’m going to be older, and I’m still going to want to win championships, win rings. And when that happens, I have to make sure the next guys saw how to play the game the right way. If I just jog, they are watching. If I don’t go all out, they are watching that. I know they are always watching.”
His manager said the same in praising Soto for setting a good example for his teammates.
“They always watch him,” Martinez said. “They watch his at-bats, they watch how he goes about his business. Where I see it a lot is in the cage, where he gets his work in in the cage. A lot of our young players sit there and they look at his routine, they watch his routine, and they learned a lot about how he goes about staying on the ball, hitting the ball the other way, hitting high pitches, hitting low pitches, so it’s really good to watch these guys.
“Especially our young guys, and even some of our older guys, and the conversations that he has with [Josh] Bell and some of the older guys, it’s been incredible, and they learn a lot, because he understands who he is, one, and the strike zone, he really understands the strike zone, and a lot of times we talk about umpires, for him, who’s the umpire, and what does he like to do, this is something that he’s learned too.”
Yep, Soto has the skinny on the umpires around the league.
“‘This guy likes to call more balls away than in,’ and he understands that, so when two strike rolls around, he knows that, ‘Hey, I might have to stay on the ball a little longer, the balls away, and maybe try to foul a ball off.’ So, this is something that he’s been working on and understanding, that he can actually take an umpire, and he breaks them down and knows what pitches he can really swing on and where he needs to expand a little bit.”