In 17 games before last night’s series opener with the Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals’ left fielder Yadiel Hernández was 19 for 52 (.365 AVG), with four doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs, seven walks, and eight runs scored over that stretch, and he continued to swing the bat in the Nats’ 12-6 win, homering for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, then sneaking a bases-loaded grounder through short to put the Nationals up 5-1 in the third, finishing the night 2 for 3, with two runs scored and three RBIs.
“He got some balls up, nice to see him pull the ball for a home run,” Manager Davey Martinez said after the Nationals’ win, which snapped a seven-game losing streak. “Usually hits the ball the other way, and then he comes up and gets a ball down and away and he drives it on the ground to knock in a couple runs for us, so just a good night for him. You’ve got to love Yadi. He goes up there and he gets his rips, he’s a good hitter, he’s getting better in the outfield, something that I push him on every day, to get better in the outfield, but you never know what’s going to happen next year, whether we get a DH in this league or if he’s got to play left field for us, but I love his at bats, he gets up there and he gives us good at bats.”
It’s worth noting that the pitch he pulled on the homer was a slider, and the home run was Hernàndez’s first on a non-fastball (i.e. breaking ball or offspeed pitch) this season. He started the game with a .180 AVG on breaking balls, but finally caught one for a homer and lined it into the right field bullpen.
“It’s something that I know he’s been working on, staying back on offspeed pitches,” Martinez said. “He’s geared up to hit the fastball, every pitch, that’s who he is, but tonight he stayed back, he kept his hands back, got out a little in front with his body, but kept his hands back and I think that’s what helped him out a lot.
“He’s working on it, he’s working on staying back on breaking balls, but I told him, I said, ‘Hey, for me, you’ve got to be ready to hit the fastball, that’s who you are, and don’t miss the fastball, don’t get to the breaking balls, and he’s really good at that.”
Hernàndez is back in for the second of two with the Jays in Nationals Park.
HERE’S THE NATIONALS’ LINEUP FOR THE 2ND OF 2 WITH THE JAYS: