César Hernández singled to left field off of Pittsburgh Pirates’ starter Mitch Keller in the first at-bat of Friday night’s win in PNC Park, connecting for his 5th leadoff hit in five games on the Nationals’ current road trip.
Hernández, the Nats’ highlighted in their pregame notes, began the 2nd of 4 with the Bucs having, “... hit safely in 7 of 8 games to start the season ...[and] recorded a run in 5 straight games,” as well. His manager, Davey Martinez, has been impressed with the 31-year-old vet who signed on as a free agent last November.
A 2 for 5 night against the Pirates, on which he scored two runs in a 7-2 win, left Hernández 11 for 38 (.289/.325/.289) early this season.
Having him hit his way on to start each of the past five games has been helpful, obviously, Martinez told reporters.
“It’s been good. The key for me and him, as I always talk to him, is just don’t try to do too much, get on base,” Martinez said.
“The home runs will come for him, but right now he’s staying on the balls with two strikes, hitting the ball the other way, and he’s trying to get on base, which is awesome. For me, I count on him to get on base for [Juan] Soto and [Nelson] Cruz and [Josh] Bell, and when he can do that, as you see, things can happen.”
Cruz started the night on Friday 5 for 28 (.179/.258/.286) with a home run, three walks, and eight Ks in seven games and 31 plate appearances, but he had a solid game in PNC, going 2 for 4, with three RBIs, and a walk.
Martinez said he was looking forward to the DH heating up and going on a run at the plate.
“When he gets hot it’s a sight to see,” he told reporters. “He’ll start hitting balls, he’ll be hitting balls out of the ballpark. But right now we’re trying to get him to stay on the ball, take his walks, accept his walks, and today he put the ball in play. He’s a professional hitter. The guy has a lot of RBIs for a reason, he knows how to drive them in. So he had a good day. Him and — Josh Bell is swinging the bat really well as well, so we’ve got to keep those guys going.”
Soto, Cruz, and Bell were a combined 6 for 11 with four walks, six RBIs, and two runs scored on the night, with Soto (2 for 3, 2 BB) scoring after singling in the first, on a hit by Cruz, and again in the sixth, after walking, and coming in on a Bell single. Just how the Nats drew it up this winter?
“Absolutely,” he said. “I mean, we get guys on base — as you know, Juan is going to accept his walks, and he’s going to get on base, so we got two guys behind him that can drive [Soto] and César in, we’re going to score some runs. I was happy too with the at-bats of the bottom of the lineup. They put the ball in play, knocked in a couple runs, so we got to continue to do that.”