Following 5-1, 7-3, and 5-0 losses in the first three games of the season, the Washington Nationals, sparked by Nelson Cruz’s first home run of the year, and 450th career homer, beat the New York Mets in the series finale.
Cruz, the 41-year-old, 18-year veteran, and Nationals’ DH, went 5 for 35 (.143 AVG), with one double and two homers in Spring Training action, and he started off 1 for 12 in his first three regular season games, with a 100% ground ball% early according to Fangraphs.
He went 2 for 4 with the home run and a bases-loaded, two-run single late in the 4-2 victory on Sunday.
His new manager was not worried about Cruz.
“Like I’ve always said, I’m not worried about Nelson hitting,” Martinez said after the sweep-avoiding win. “He’s a professional hitter, he knows how to drive in runs. It was beautiful.
“Hits the home run, he stays inside the ball with two strikes, hits the ball up the middle, two big runs for us there.”
Though they’d struggled at the plate as a team in the first few games, Martinez remained confident the bats would wake up.
“We talked about this today,” he said before the club boarded a flight for Atlanta. “Hitting coaches — we discussed some stuff, and the only thing I know for sure they’re not going to go 0 for 2000. They’re going to start hitting, so just do the little things, and they came through today.”
Cruz sparking the first win of the season with a big career milestone pleased his manager.
And 450 home runs?
“That’s a lot of homers,” Martinez said. “I told him he could have 50 of mine to get to 500 if he wanted. But he — that’s incredible, it really is. I mean, like I said, as a testament to how good a hitter he really is, and what he can do. I love the two-strike approach though. I know he’s going to hit home runs, but the two-strike approach to drive the run in was awesome.”
HERE’S THE NATIONALS’ LINEUP FOR THE OPENER WITH THE BRAVES: