Nelson Cruz left the first game of three with the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field in the 7th, and the 41-year-old, 18-year veteran missed the next two games with lower back stiffness.
Cruz returned to the lineup for the series opener in Anaheim last night, looking to get going this season after signing a 1-year/$15M deal to become Washington’s DH, but struggling out of the gate with the Nationals, going 13 for 91 (.143/.233/.209) with two homers, 11 walks, 18 Ks, and 12 RBIs in his first 24 games of the season.
Manager Davey Martinez was happy to get the slugger back in the lineup as he said when he spoke to reporters before the series opener with the Los Angeles Angels.
“After last night’s game he said he felt really good, so I told him, ‘Let’s get on the flight, call me in the morning, and let me know how you feel after a good night’s sleep,’ and he called me this morning about 11:00 [AM] and said he felt good, so I watched him down there take some swings in the cage and he looks good,” Martinez explained.
Yadiel Hernández filled in as the Nationals’ DH for the second and third games against the Rockies, extending a multi-hit game streak to four, and then five-straight games, in which the 34-year-old professional hitter was 12 for 22 (.546/.565/.727) with four doubles and one walk, but hard as it was not to pencil the left-handed hitter into the lineup again, he sat out of the series opener in Angel Stadium, with Cruz ready to DH again, and a left-hander starting for LAA.
Even though he is 6 for 13 (.462/.500/.615) in limited at-bats against lefties early this year, Hernández did get the night off, with Lane Thomas (7 for 21, .333/.364/.476 over 22 PAs vs LHPs this season) getting the start in left field.
As much as he might have wanted to get Yadiel out there again, getting Thomas in made sense to Martinez.
“Yeah, yeah, but it’s about also keeping Lane engaged and getting him out there. Lane hits lefties good, so last time he hit the ball well as well, so I wanted to get him out there.”
Cruz went 1 for 3 with a single in the 3-0 loss last night. Thomas was 1 for 3 as well in the losing effort.
Tonight, in the second of three with the Angels, Martinez went with Cruz as the DH again, in the cleanup spot, with Hernández in left field for the 2nd of three in Anaheim, batting fifth.