After struggling on the offensive end over the last few weeks (and most of the first two months of the 2021 campaign, really), last night’s 14-hit, 11-run breakout was a relief for everyone in the Washington Nationals’ organization. Now to try to sustain that kind of production.
“I think we’ve had one or two games like this and the next three or four we don’t score runs or we don’t get opportunities,” Ryan Zimmerman said after going 2 for 5 with a double and home run the 11-6 win in Atlanta’s Truist Park. “So I think it’s nice to do what we did tonight, and string together a bunch of good at bats. The key is to kind of keep it going and be a little bit more consistent. But we have a talented lineup, we just got to kind of use this and hopefully get some positive momentum going and just do a lot of things we did tonight, take our walks when they’re there, and hit singles, and you don’t always have to hit home runs or anything like that, so just kind of get it to the next guy and get it going.”
The Nationals, as a team, did hit two doubles and two home runs last night, but the other 10 hits were singles, and they went 4 for 16 with runners in scoring position overall, with seven left on base in the win. So while there were plenty of positives, it was one game and there is still clearly room for improvement going forward.
Manager Davey Martinez, who’s been preaching aggressiveness while the Nationals were in a bit of a rut the last few weeks, was happy to see his club attacking early in counts against Braves’ lefty Max Fried and the relievers who followed on the mound.
“It was awesome,” Martinez told reporters. “Like I said, we got to continue to do that. Hunt fastballs early, get the early strikes and put them in play.
“They had good at bats today, they were aggressive, and it was a lot of fun. We found some grass out in the outfield today and hit some balls over the fence, so a good day for us.”
It wasn’t all positive last night. Stephen Strasburg did leave the mound in the second inning with what his manager described after the game as tightness in his trap, and he’s going for an MRI today to get that checked out, but the club responded to the adversity and banded together in response, broke out of a prolonged slump, and snapped their five-game losing streak.
“It’s funny, because you sit around and have these conversations with them and none of them ever feel like we’re out of it,” Martinez said of what he hears from his team. “I mean, they come in, they’re here, the music is on, the energy — it’s live in our clubhouse and we watch them in batting practice, and man they’re really honing in on trying to square balls up and taking ground balls, and then before the game you hear them talking to one another, ‘This is the day. This is the day we’re going to snap out of it and we’re going to get on a roll.’
“And they believe that.”
“Today,” Martinez continued, “when we were out on the mound and things happened to Strasburg, they were sitting there and they said, ‘Hey, this is going to be a good day. It stinks right now, but we’re going to make this a good day,’ and you saw what they did.”
Now do it again.