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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on CJ Abrams so far; September call-ups; shift ban + more...

Highlights from last night’s game and the Nationals’ pre- and post-game media availability on Wednesday...

Game Recap: Nationals - A’s:

Lane Thomas doubled, and Joey Meneses, naturally, drove him in with an RBI single in the home-half of the first in the Nationals’ series finale with the A’s yesterday, but Washington’s Nationals failed to add any runs in bottom of the inning, stranding two, and they stranded a leadoff triple (by Alex Call) in the second, then put two runners in scoring position with one out in the third, and loaded the bases with two outs before leaving them loaded to keep it 1-0 after three.

Paolo Espino made the one-run lead hold up through four, however, allowing just two hits, and striking out 6 of 14 batters faced to that point, but the veteran hurler gave up a game-tying solo home run by A’s catcher Shea Langeliers on a 1-2 curveball up in the zone in the top of the fifth, 1-1.

Espino gave up just the one run through five, with debuting Athletics’ starter Ken Waldichuk going 4 23 innings, with five hits, four walks, and one run allowed.

A leadoff walk by Jake McGee in the top of the seventh came around to score two outs later, with Cristian Pache taking the free pass from the veteran reliever, moving up on a sac bunt, and scoring on a two-out single by Tony Kemp, 2-1 A’s, and 3-1 on a Sean Murphy single off of Carl Edwards, Jr.

Joey Meneses was 3 for 4 after he hit a one-out single off of A’s right-hander Joel Payamps, and he took third on a hit by Luke Voit, before scoring on a groundout by Nelson Cruz, 3-2, in the seventh.

César Hernández reached via leadoff HBP in the eighth, and scored two outs later on an RBI single by Ildemaro Vargas, 3-3.

It went to extras, and the A’s scored two in the top of the tenth, then the Nationals got one, on an RBI single by Keibert Ruiz, and after a two-out walk by Lane Thomas extended the inning, the Nationals walked it off on a three-run homer by Joey Meneses, whose 7th HR of the season earned the club their first walk-off win of the 2022 campaign.

Joey Meneses is our hero.

“He’s been doing it all year,” Davey Martinez said after the win, when asked about the month-long run Meneses has been on since getting called up.

“We’ve been watching him all year, even in Rochester, and he’s been hitting all year long.

“And nothing’s changed, you know. That’s one thing that I reiterate to him is nothing changes when you come up here.

“You drove the ball from right field to left field. Just do the same thing, stay on the ball. And he’s been awesome.”

Abrams Getting Comfortable:

CJ Abrams went 1 for 2 with a walk off A’s righty James Kaprielian in the second of three with Oakland in D.C. on Wednesday. Abrams walked the second time up, and doubled in his third trip to the plate for his first extra-base hit since joining the Nationals. The double was his 8th hit in 14 games and 53 plate appearances for the 21-year-old shortstop, who went from first to third alertly on an error after his walk in the fifth inning, and scored the first of four which Washington put up in the inning to go up 4-1 in a 5-1 win.

Abrams also helped out on the defensive end, turning two double plays with new double play partner Luis García.

So, is that the infielder, who came over from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline as one of six players acquired in the deal for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, at his best, or at least a glimpse of his talent and what he can provide when he’s going well?

“We got to remember he’s 21 years old, right?” manager Davey Martinez cautioned reporters politely in his post game press conference on Wednesday night.

“But the one thing I can say is he loves playing the game, and he had some good at-bats today, and put the ball in play, and I said, I always tell him every day, the hits are going to come, you just work good at-bats, get yourself ready to hit, stay on the fastballs, but the biggest thing is when you limit your chases.

“You get in a good hitter’s count, you’re going to have a good swing, so just continue to work on that.

“As far as his defense, and baserunning, when he gets on the bases, he’s exciting. He gets going. His defense has been good.

“He turned some good double plays for us today, and he’s going to continue to get better.”

GM Mike Rizzo, who set the bar high and waited for a team to meet his lofty demands, then did actually trade Soto (and Bell) at the deadline, told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning he’s been happy with the early returns from the shortstop, who was one of three of the six players acquired who had some major league experience.

“I think he’s been terrific,” Rizzo told the Junkies. “You look at the numbers, since he’s taken over at shortstop, the ERA of our pitching staff has been really good, and you can see the athleticism just oozes out of him, and I like the energy level he gives, he gives us a speed component on the field, a terrifically range-y shortstop that covers a lot of the infield, and has got a good arm. He’s learning the ropes. He’s the same age as a college junior in the draft this year, and he’s in the big leagues.”

Cincinnati Reds v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

[ed. note - “The Nationals’ pitchers have put up a 3.61 ERA since Abrams debuted in D.C. on August 15th. It’s the 11th best ERA in the majors over that stretch, FWIW. While we’re looking at stats, we’ll just note the Nats are a dismal -53 DRS on the season in 2022, by far the worst in the majors. But back to the Abrams talk, and the difficult southpaws the left-handed hitter has been seeing since coming to D.C.”]

“I give him credit,” Rizzo said, “he’s faced a lot of left-handed pitching in the last two weeks, I mean, an unbelievable amount of left-handed pitching, and has stuck in there and grinded out some at-bats, had a good at-bat last night against [A’s starter Cole] Irvin with a base hit up the middle.

“And I like his energy, I like his attitude, I like his swagger, and he makes us extremely athletic up the middle.”

Abrams got the day off in the series finale with the Athletics, and with the kind of season the Nationals have had injury-wise, we’ll just note, or the Nats’ skipper will, it was a scheduled day off for the infielder...

“Yeah, it was a scheduled day off,” Martinez told reporters in his pregame presser before the third of three with the A’s in D.C. “I wanted to give him a day off. He’s been playing every day here, so I thought today would be a good day to — even though he had a good [game last night], give him a day off. I know he’s working today with [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] on some stuff, but he did great yesterday. And like I said before, I love his energy, he’s been playing shortstop really well. His at-bats, I know he wants to get hits, but we reiterate, ‘Don’t start chasing hits, because things go sideways when you start doing that. Just see the ball and have good swings,’ and he’s had some good swings, and yesterday had a nice double, hit the ball on the warning track, but continue to work, and he does that. He really wants to get better, and he wants to do all the things that we know he can do.

“But like I said, it will take some time, but I see him getting better every day. He runs the bases really well. He’s very aggressive, which we love, he’s definitely headed in the right direction.”

September Call-Ups:

Before the finale with the A’s, the Nationals called up a catcher, Tres Barrera, and a reliever, Mason Thompson, adding two players to the expanded roster for September, both of them players who have been up earlier this season.

“I mentioned about just trying to bring Mason back when we could,” Davey Martinez said in explaining the additions. “We see Mason as being a big part of our future. We wanted to get him to throw, you know, try to get four outs, five outs, he’s actually started a couple games, he got two-plus outs, so he said he feels good, he’s throwing the ball well, so we’re going to give him an opportunity to come up here and use him in a role to where he can come in in a big moment and get a couple outs for us, but also be able to get 4-5 outs for us as well, so I’m looking forward to watching him pitch.”

Thompson has posted a 1.13 ERA, a 2.87 FIP, and a .179/.281/.179 line against in nine games and 8 IP, throwing 69% sinkers (which average 96 MPH, and against which hitters have a paltry .217 AVG), and a slider (30.2%, .000 BAA), but he also missed significant time with a biceps issue which limited the 24-year-old righty acquired from the Padres in the Daniel Hudson deal at the deadline in 2021.

Seattle Mariners v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

“I watched him down there in Rochester,” Martinez said of the work the reliever did with the Nats’ top minor league affiliate before coming back up. “He’s throwing the ball well. As we all know, he’s got a good fastball, talked a lot about trying to pick and choose what kind of breaking pitch he wants, whether it’s curveball or slider, they said his slider has been really good, so we’ll give him an opportunity to come up here and see what he can do.

“Tres, like I said yesterday, it will be nice to have a third catcher, because then I can do something different with Riley [Adams] and Keibert [Ruiz], whether I want to DH one of them.

“Riley played first base down there [at Triple-A], so if we want to give Luke [Voit] a day, [Adams] can play first base as well. It’s nice to have that extra catcher to do different things.”

BONUS QUOTES: First DH-Less Baseball, Now Shifts, Lord...

With MLB expected to ban shifts in the near future, forward-thinking Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters this week he’s considering having his infielders stop shifting dramatically over the next few weeks so the young infielders — who don’t know a world without shifts — can start the process of getting used to the latest way they’re trying to ruin improve the game/exciting scoring.

“I think we might think about — we’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen next year,” the fifth-year manager explained, “... but really get these guys to understand how to play the game the way it’s going to be so they get used to doing it, and I want to see how that pans out. We get so much information on shifting, you know, guys are really starting to hit — we’re teaching guys to try to hit the other way on shifts, you know, stay on balls, especially with guys on base, two-strike hitting, stuff of that nature. So, we’re starting to see a lot more of it, and we don’t have a big sample size, but we’re going to get a big sample and see which guys really are starting to hit the ball the other way.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“I know Freddie Freeman, he’ll do it. I’ve seen him do it. And he beat us a bunch of times, but when does he do it? Does he do it with guys on base? Does he do it with two strikes?

“Does he do it just on certain pitchers? What pitchers?

“We’re taking all that into consideration, and we’re going to put some numbers up and see what we can do to prevent that from happening.”

His thoughts on the pros and cons of a shift ban?

“I think it will help the offense for sure,” Martinez said. “I mean, I think when the ball is hit in right field, a lot of times it probably should be a hit.

“We don’t know what all is going to transpire out of all this. Do guys need to have both feet on the dirt? Right? How far are they going to allow you to go to second base? All that stuff there’s still no answer to that, but like I said, if it does happen, I want to make sure we’re prepared for us and it doesn’t sneak up on us next year and we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do.

“Obviously we’re going to play kind of a normal defense, what we consider normal, but how much can we get away with moving guys?”