Clearly struggling in many phases of the game, the Washington Nationals have to find something to build on to avert what could be a catastrophic season.
One bright spot in Saturday night’s 6-2 loss was the defensive play of Trea Turner, who made two key plays at shortstop that kept the game from getting out of hand in the fifth inning of the seven-inning contest.
Turner and Ryan Zimmerman were also responsible for all of the run production on a sloppy, wet night that had both teams looking at times like they’d rather not be there.
The score was tied at 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning when pinch-hitting Christian Yelich greeted Wander Suero with a leadoff single and took second on a throwing error by Josh Harrison, playing his second career game in center field.
Kolten Wong then doubled, and Yelich scored what turned out to be an earned run for Suero, Turner’s defensive wizardry nonwithstanding.
With Wong on second and nobody out, Brewers’ shortstop Willy Adames hit a chopper that slowed on the wet infield grass, as Turner charged it full speed. Wong, off on contact, headed for third.
What happened next will be iconic.
Turner scooped the wet ball off the grass with his right hand. Moving toward home, no plays at first, and still with his eye on the ball, Turner looked like he might just hold it it. Instead, he flipped his wrist and the ball to his right, where Starlin Castro was set up just in front of third base as Wong pulled up after rounding the bag.
“I felt like it was my only play and said, ‘Why not?’” Tuner explained afterward. “Starlin was ready for it, and we got kind of lucky because he would have been safe, but he didn’t get all the way back.
Wong’s left foot got back to third on a split/slide as Castro started his sweeping tag, but Castro’s glove pushed Wong’s left toe off the bag long enough for the first out.
“If he just stops on the bag, then Starlin catches the ball and no play happens,” said Turner.
“That’s good baseball awareness,” said Martinez. “He actually didn’t think — he thought he slid, he thought he was safe, he didn’t realize that he never got to the base and the umpire made a good call and called him out.”
Turner was going three all the way.
“If you react to it as opposed to kind of being proactive I think it doesn’t happen,” he said.
“You’ve got to kind of do it ahead of time. The ball’s got to be on the way so if he does get even a foot or two off, that you have a chance.”
Martinez said the play brought up a classic baseball moment.
“Kind of reminded me of a Derek Jeter kind of play,” he said.
Now with a man on first and one out, Avisaíl García sent another ground ball up the middle, where Jordy Mercer was shading him in the shift.
Mercer jumped about three feet to field the high hop at about his belt while Turner headed for second. Mercer underhanded the ball to Turner, who swept his foot across the bag just as Adames lunged into a classic breakup slide.
Turner launched off his right foot, back to first base, and made a perfect pirouette as Adames slid beneath his legs, whipping the ball to first base a full step ahead of García.
Turner scored the Nats’ first run of the night in the third when he walked and came home on Zimmerman’s drive down the right field line.
He drove in the second the next inning on a bases-loaded error by Adames, but Josh Bell’s base-running error cost the Nats a bigger inning.
Turner also had two stolen bases, including one where he was caught off first on a pickoff throw and beat the throw to second anyway.