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Washington Nationals’ Yadiel Hernández can really hit

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It’s what everyone ends up saying about Yadiel Hernández eventually...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Yadiel Hernández went 1 for 4 with an opposite field home run and a walk on Saturday in the Washington Nationals’ 9-6 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in American Family Field.

That home run was the sixth of the season (and fifth opposite field homer) for the 33-year-old, second-year outfielder, who has been on a nice run over the last month-plus, with the Nationals noting in their pregame notes before the finale with the Brew Crew on Sunday, that going back to July 29th, he was 23 for 63 in that 21-game stretch (.365/.431/.619) with the .365 AVG eighth-best in the major leagues over that period.

Hernández had hit safely in 15 of the 21 games in that stretch as well, with four doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs, eight walks, and 11 runs scored in that period.

This is, of course, something of a second career for the Cuban-born Hernández, who put up a combined .324/.449/.487 line with 96 doubles and 53 home runs over six seasons and 514 games in the Cuban National Series, before defecting to the U.S. in 2015, signing on in D.C. in 2017, and debuting in the majors in 2020’s 60-game campaign.

“He was a good veteran hitter on the Cuban national team,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said last year.

“He was a left-handed bat that our international scouts liked and wanted to sign. When those scouts are very passionate about wanting to sign a player, they liked the skill set, but they loved the make-up, and I think that I owe it to those scouts to reward them for their hard work and signing players that they want, if all the determining factors fit for us, and they did.”

All he’s done is hit since he signed. Hernández has a .300/.383/.506 line with 63 doubles, and 68 HRs in 385 games in the Nationals’ minor league system, and going into Sunday’s series finale in Milwaukee, he had a .300/.363/.453 line with five doubles and six homers over 78 games in the majors this season.

“He’s a good hitter. He really is,” manager Davey Martinez said before the third of three with the Brewers.

“I’ve said that all along, and he’s getting an opportunity now, and as you can see, he’s done well. He always has good at bats. He gets up there and he’s a tough at bat for any pitcher, left-handed, right-handed, he gets himself ready to hit every pitch, hit every pitch hard, and he stays on the ball. As you can see, another home run to left field yesterday, but he stays on the ball really well.”

With his long career in the game, and the long road he traveled to get to where he is now, Hernández is a valuable resource in the clubhouse too, helping some of the younger players on the team as they adjust to increased roles on the rebooted roster in the nation’s capital.

“He’s very good,” Martinez told reporters of Hernández’s work with his teammates.

“Like I said, he knows a lot about hitting as well, but he’s taken some of these Latin young players and kind of put them under his wing a little bit and talking to them about at bats, and what to look for and things of that nature throughout the game, but he’s been great.

“The thing I love about him, he’s been through so much, but yet he wants to get better, and I challenged him to be a better outfielder, and as you can see he’s made some really good plays for us out in the outfield, and he’s gotten a lot better. I challenged him to be a better baserunner and he’s been working on that as well.”

Martinez has also told the veteran outfielder that while he may be a veteran in baseball terms, he’s not that old.

“I told him, just because you think you might be a little older than everybody else, you don’t play like it, you’ve still got some baseball life left in you,” the manager said. “So and you can hit, so continue to play hard every day, and who knows what will happen in this game, you might be here for 7-8 years, who knows, but play hard every day, and he’s been doing that.”