In 45 games and 206 plate appearances in the Washington Nationals’ lineup last season, Lane Thomas, 26, posted a solid .270/.364/.489 line with 14 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 27 walks, and 46 Ks after he was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline.
As he explained it, getting consistent at-bats at Triple-A in the Cards’ system got him going again after he’d struggled in limited ABs in the majors with St. Louis.
“When I was with the Cardinals I was only taking a couple of at bats a week,” Thomas said, “… and then got the opportunity to go play in Triple-A and kind of get my feet back under me.”
“So before I came here I was playing every day,” he explained, “and then got to play in Rochester before I got activated, so I think it’s just getting the consistent at bats every day has helped out.
“Let’s just hope it keeps going that way.”
“He’s done really well,” Martinez said in mid-September 2021. “I like him a lot. He’s not afraid — he takes pitches — he’s not afraid to hit with two strikes, so he takes pitches, so he works good counts and puts the ball in play. He hits the ball hard, and you see the results that he’s having, so he’s been a joy to watch. His defense has been pretty good as well, so he’s getting a chance to play every day and he’s taking every opportunity to do the best he can.”
Thomas got off to a tough start this year, however, with a .195/.256./325 line, five doubles, a triple, and three home runs in his first 43 games and 137 PAs over the first two months of the season. But he’s picked things up in June.
Going into last night’s series opener with Atlanta in the nation’s capital, Thomas was, the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes, “15-for-39 (.385) with three doubles, three homers, five RBI(s), four walks, and 12 runs scored in nine June games,” and he’d, “hit safely in seven of the nine, with six multi-hit efforts.”
“I think for him, it was a comfort thing,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said of Thomas’s surge coinciding with a move to the top of the order in recent weeks. “He was so in-between early on in the season. I know in Spring Training he wanted to work on staying on the ball, hitting the ball to right field more, you know, and I think he got caught up in trying to do that too much, that he was just missing some pitches, he was late, his timing was all messed up.”
“He’s in a good place right now,” Martinez added. “He’s hitting balls to right field and not really trying, he’s staying on breaking balls and driving them over there, he’s really getting on fastballs well now. This is the guy that we saw last year, so hopefully we keep him that way for many, many months, but as you know, this game always changes, guys go into slumps, so if we can limit the times they do go in a funk, that’s what we try to do.”
Thomas continued rolling in last night’s 9-5 loss to the Nationals’ NL East rivals, going 2 for 4 with a walk and another HR.
“He’s swinging the bat well,” Martinez told reporters after the game. “Like I said, he’s getting ready. His timing is good. He’s getting ready early. I was very impressed, with the guy on second base, staying back and hitting the ball the other way, but he can do those things. My biggest thing with him is he’s starting to swing the bat. He’s not taking, he’s not hitting with two strikes, but when he does he understands that he’s staying on the ball well, so he’s done well so far, we just got to keep him going. He’s doing really well.”
Thomas is back atop the lineup tonight for the second of three with the Braves in D.C.
HERE’S THE NATIONALS LINEUP FOR TONIGHT’S GAME:
NOTE: Obviously, Juan Soto, who banged his knee on the bench in the Nationals’ dugout before heading out to the field for the top of the ninth last night, then was pinch hit for in the bottom of the inning after he limped around right field, is not in the Nats’ lineup in the second of three with the Braves in D.C.
“He slipped and smacked his knee on the corner of the bench,” Davey Martinez explained in his post game press conference last night.
“He got pretty sore. So, just to be safe I took him. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
“He did it before the inning,” Martinez continued. “He said he can go out there, but he was limping pretty good when he went out to the field. He came back and he said he started getting really sore, so I said I don’t want to chance it. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Apparently, not great. We’ll see what Martinez says in his pregame press conference today...
Soto’s knee is “OK,” got a clean X-ray last night, per Davey. Felt it was a good time to give him his first day off this season. Expects him back tomorrow.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) June 14, 2022