In his last five games before last night’s series opener with the Los Angeles Dodgers in D.C., Lane Thomas was 5 for 17 (.294 AVG), with two doubles, a triple, a home run, and two runs scored, and on the year, he’d, “... hit safely in 18 of 27 starts ... and reached base safely in 23 of the 27,” as the Washington Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes for the matchup.
Thomas, 26, went into the game against LA’s lefty Tyler Anderson with a .381/.500/.603 line in 78 plate appearances against southpaws this season (versus a .178/.274/.337 line in 186 PAs against RHPs), so his manager tried to take advantage of his splits by moving him to the top of the order. His thinking?
“Just he’s swinging the bat well, he hits lefties really well, so for me it’s just try to get him up there against this lefty,” Martinez said. “And put César [Hernández] down a little bit [hitting 8th], and it gives us an opportunity maybe with César down there to flip the lineup up to the top again. It’s something I thought about last night, after looking at everything, so I feel very comfortable with [Thomas] leading off. He did it last year and did well, so with him and moving Keibert [Ruiz] up to 2, let’s see what happens.”
Not much happened. Thomas went 0 for 4 with two Ks as the leadoff man, but it wasn’t just the outfielder who struggled at the plate. Nationals’ hitters managed just five hits off of the Dodgers’ starter, who completed eight scoreless frames, and the home team scored just a run on seven hits overall, scoring one on two hits off reliever Phil Bickford in the ninth.
Nelson Cruz singled and scored the only run the Nationals put up in the game, returning to the lineup after he tweaked an ankle late in the series finale with the Milwaukee Brewers in American Family Field this past weekend.
“He called me this morning,” Martinez told reporters before the game, “... said he felt good, said he wanted to play, so that’s awesome that he’s back in there today.”
Cruz went 1 for 4 with a run scored in the loss.