Looking for answers to his team’s moribund offense, Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez moved No. 1 catcher Kiebert Ruiz into the No. 2 spot in the batting order on Sunday, ahead of the big sluggers in the lineup.
Ruiz went 1-for-5, driving in a run and scoring another in the Nats’ 8-2 win over Milwaukee in their series finale Sunday.
In 14 games this month, the 23-year-old has raised his average from .239 to .293 with a .370/.482/.522 run that includes four doubles, a home run, and six multi-hit games.
“Keibert is swinging the bat well, but the biggest thing is he’s accepting his walks a little bit better,” Martinez told reporters before Sunday’s game. “So get someone else up there to try to get on for Juan [Soto].“
Leadoff man César Hernández has a .317 on-base percentage and has scored 21 runs ahead of Soto, Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell, so Ruiz, with a .354 OBP, seems likely to get on base for the Nats’ “big three.”
“Extend our lineup a little bit more, and see what happens,” Martinez continued. “If [Ruiz] can get on base, César and him can him get on base, then you have our big three guys maybe can do something, so but Keibert is swinging the bat well so I wanted to get him up at the top.”
Ruiz struck out in the first and lined out to center field in the third.
But the move paid off in the fourth inning, on Ruiz’s third at-bat of the game, when he pulled a low-inside fastball into deep left field for a double, scoring Dee Strange-Gordon and sending César Hernández from first to third.
It was one of a team record-tying eight consecutive hits in the inning for the Nats, extending the lead to 6-0.
Ruiz grounded into a 5-6-3 double play in the sixth and reached on an error in the ninth, finishing his first game as the No. 2 hitter with the Nationals, and second as a No. 2 hitter in his career 1 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI.