Victor Robles ambushed Chase Anderson on the first pitch of the first at bat of the bottom of the first inning on Wednesday night in Nationals Park, taking the Phillies’ starter deep to left field, 424 feet from home for his second home run of the season.
“He came out aggressive in the strike zone and that’s what we talk about with him,” Davey Martinez told reporters when the manager spoke after Washington’s third loss in a row to Philadelphia. “He gets a ball in the strike zone that he feels like he can hit, we want him to take a swing at it, and he did that in the first at bat, and he worked a walk, so overall like I said, he’s getting better.
“He’s having good at bats, he’s trying to stay in the strike zone, and he’s getting on base.”
“That is the most important thing for me, is to get on base,” Robles said in his own post-game Zoom call on Wednesday night.
“I need to be on base to allow the hitters behind me to be able to have runners on base and drive me in, basically.
“So the big thing is to make sure I try as much as possible to get on base any way I can.”
Robles has been hard at work trying to get his offensive game in order, but his 1 for 3, HR, BB, game left him with just a .200/.323/.296 line in 89 games and 300 plate appearances, though, as his manager, said, the aggressive approach in his first at bat is what the team’s looking for from the outfielder.
“I want to be more aggressive within the strike zone,” Robles said, “... and do some damage with those pitches.”
“I want to see him get a ball that he can handle and like I said, if it’s 0-0, or whatever the count is, take a swing at it,” Martinez added. “I really believe that he’s going to be able to hit and he’s starting to swing the bat better and it was nice to see him jump on a fastball and hit it the way he did, even if it’s the first pitch or not of the game, but it was good that he was ready and aggressive.”
Robles and Nationals’ hitting coach Kevin Long have been putting in work all season and trying to get the 24-year-old outfielder going at the plate, and according to Robles, Josh Bell has been providing input as well.
“Kevin Long has always been there with me battling and trying to get me right,” Robles said, “... and I appreciate his hard work, we’ve been putting a lot of work in.
“I also appreciate Josh Bell, he’s helped as another set of eyes for me out there and just the time he gives me and the help he’s able to bring to me, any word of advice has been great, and he’s been very, very great about that.”
Martinez said that Bell, who came to D.C. in a trade from Pittsburgh this past winter, has had experience helping young players adjust to the major league game.
“[Bell has] been through this process before, over in Pittsburgh with a lot of young kids,” the fourth-year skipper said, “so he understands, and he understands the struggles that young kids might go through. He’s not the only one neither, but he’s been very talkative, talking to young guys, giving them good advice, staying positive with them. It’s been great.”
Robles said the main focus in his work with Long, is getting his timing down, and he’s slowly getting there.
“I’ve been feeling good, especially these last few days, and with Kevin Long, just with working on trying to get the point of contact out in front a little bit more and it’s been working good so far.”
The key to getting that point of contact out front, he said, is tied to timing.
“Trying to get myself started along with the pitcher and time him a little better and get that contact point out in front.”
Safe to say he was on time for Anderson’s first-pitch fastball on Wednesday night?
“Yes, absolutely,” Robles said.