García’s Back ... And Hitting Cleanup?:
Luis García missed the final two games of the three-game series in Citizens Bank Park, with a planned off day on Saturday night, and then an issue with his side keeping him out of the lineup on Sunday, but the Nationals’ 22-year-old shortstop was back in there for last night’s series opener with the Orioles in D.C., and he was penciled in as Washington’s cleanup guy for the first of two against Baltimore.
García’s moved around a bit, hitting everywhere but 3rd-4th before last night, and over his last 14 games going into the 1st of 2 with the O’s, he’d gone 19 for 61 (.312/.333/.475) with a total of four doubles and two home runs, so there are, you know, reasons why his manager decided to hit him in the cleanup spot.
“Yeah, I mean, when he’s in there he’s hit the ball pretty good,” Davey Martinez explained in his pregame press conference on Tuesday. “The fact I wanted to try to break up our lineup with some of those righties and get him in there. I mean, this guy — he matches up well against this guy today, [Orioles’ starter Dean Kremer] so I thought we’ll give it a shot, and see how he reacts to it.
“When he hits the ball, he hits it hard. I like the way he’s swinging the bat. So we’re going to put him at cleanup and see how he does.”
García drove in a run with a double the first time up against Kremer, going the other way with a 1-1 curve outside and hitting it down the line, and he avoided a double play when he grounded into a force at second with runners on the corners and one out in the third to get a run in and put the home team up 3-1 in what ended up a 4-3 loss to the Orioles.
Asked about García’s production with the bat this season (.290/.302/.427, 17 doubles, six home runs in 73 games and 296 PAs before last night), Martinez said it is all, “... about his chase rate.”
“He’s gotten better. Sometimes he reverts back to chasing. But he has gotten better, so you know as long as he gets the ball in the strike zone, and he stays on the fastball, he’s done really well. And that’s something that we talked to him about today already. Just, ‘Hey, just continue to stay on the fastball, elevate the ball,’ because he’s a much better high ball hitter than he is low ball, and, ‘... limit your chases, when you do that, you get the ball in the zone, you hit the ball hard,’ so we’ll let him go out there today and like I said, try to get him to stay off the balls below the zone and get the ball up and see what he does.”
CJ At SS:
“I know he’s got a good arm,” Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said after he’d watched CJ Abrams make a play which ended up being chosen @chevrolet’s Electric Play of the Week for last week, diving back onto the outfield grass in short left field in Citizens Bank Park, quickly popping up, then firing a strong, one-hop throw across to first base, to get the out on what really looked like a hit off of the bat.
“His range so far has really been good,” Martinez told reporters in Philadelphia of what he’s seen from the 21-year-old shortstop acquired in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade deadline deal with San Diego.
“I mean, he got to that ball — his first step is really incredible. He got the ball, caught it, and he knew exactly what to do, he fired the ball down — which we teach all our guys — when you get in the hole like that you want to throw the ball down. He did it instinctively, so man, he’s playing well. He’s swinging the bat well. He’s playing really well.”
While some of the shortstop’s recent plays have been highlight reel-worthy, Martinez said it is the routine plays he’s making which have made a difference for the Nationals too.
“He’s been making some really nice plays,” he explained. “What I love about CJ is the routine plays are made, and that’s what I love about him.”
Heading into last night’s game, the fifth-year manager talked more about what he’s seen in the time Abrams has been up in the majors with the Nationals, especially in the field.
“He’s been really good,” Martinez said.
“I’m watching him make plays I haven’t seen made in quite a while. So, with that being said, there’s still some room for growth, but the biggest thing I talk about is his preparation and his first step to the baseball. I mean, he’s been really, really good, and really quick. He made a play the other day in the six-hole on grass that was unbelievable, then he made another stop that was two feet in the grass on a ground ball that was hit pretty hard. No way I thought he was going to get to the ball, and he knocked it down. He’s only going to get better too.
“And I love watching him play. He makes our defense, and he makes our pitching staff a lot better when he’s out there.”
Abrams has been putting in plenty of work with third base and infield coach Gary DiSarcina over the last few weeks, making some adjustments based on what they’ve seen since he got to the Nationals, and building a relationship with someone who’s set to spend a long time in the nation’s capital.
“We did our due diligence with some of their coaches over there,” Martinez said of reaching out to the Padres before the deadline deal. “We talked. We wanted to put eyes on him, we didn’t want to change him when he came here. DiSarcina saw some things that he needed to correct. I talked to him about some of the things that I’ve heard, just to stay on him about, but for the most part, I told him in my office, I want you to go have fun and I want you to play. We’ll evaluate you as we get along, we’ll see some things, we’ll talk about some things, but I want your feedback too, and he’s been great. He’s been all ears, he’s listened, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. Gary works with him, loves working with him, because he’s got such a great attitude about going out there.”
“So far it’s been a really good relationship with the kid,” Martinez added. ‘And I know just by hearing what he’s said, he loves it here, and he says he’s got a lot of attention, a lot of good attention, and some really meaningful conversations with our coaching staff, and myself, and his teammates, so he’s just going out there and playing and having fun.”
NOTE: As for the learning Abrams still needs to do, he doubled to lead off the sixth, with the Nationals trailing the Orioles, 4-3, then ran for third on a grounder to short off Israel Pineda’s bat and got thrown out for the first out of the inning. Not great.
“He’s got to understand right there — that’s just being overly aggressive,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ one-run loss to the O’s. “He’s young and wanted to get to third base, he knew he had to get to third base. But that situation, you’ve got to see the ball through. You’ve got to get back to second and see what happens. So, like I said, it’s just a young mistake. We’ll talk to him about it. He knew right away. He should’ve went back. But we’ll just talk to him about it, but like I said, in these one-run games like that, you go out there and you’re young and you’re trying to do the spectacular, right?
“Just play the game. Right? Why we always say play the game.”
More Meneses ❤️:
Going into Sunday’s series finale with the Phillies, the Nationals noted, 30-year-old rookie Joey Meneses was, “hitting .321 (45-for-140) with nine doubles, eight home runs, 20 RBI[s], five walks, and 22 runs scored,” and he’d, “hit safely in 28 of the 34 games,” since he came up and made his MLB debut on August 2nd.
“Meneses is just the 50th player since 1901 to record at least 42 hits in his first 30 games,” the Nats added, “… and the eighth player since 2000.”
“His approach at the plate has been amazing,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week, when he was asked about the Nats’ first baseman/right fielder’s continued success at the plate.
“He stays inside the ball very well. He uses the whole field. His strong point is he hits them gap-to-gap from left-center to the right-center gap, and he’s hit some really good pitching. I mean, you’re talking about a guy who’s faced some good pitchers and really done a good job [against them]. He handles velocity well, and he handles offspeed and breaking pitches.
“I think that’s a credit to the amount of games he’s played in the Mexican League, which is a very offspeed-[oriented] league, and I think that has helped him, and I think he handles soft stuff as well as velocity as good as any player we’ve seen in a while.”
Meneses was 12 for 45 (.267/.271/.400) with three doubles and a homer for the Nationals on their 10-game road trip, and wrapped it up by going 4 for 9 over the final two games against Philadelphia in Citizens Bank Park.
“We talk about it all the time,” manager Davey Martinez said after a two-hit game (2 for 5, 2B, HR) for Meneses in Saturday night’s loss.
“He doesn’t try to do too much, he stays in the middle of the field. You saw him hit another double to right field there, but he’s just been a good, consistent hitter.”
Meneses singled the first time up in Tuesday’s game, and scored the Nats’ first run on an RBI double by Luis García. He added a leadoff double in the fifth, his 10th two-base knock, for a 2 for 5 game in the end.