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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats’ offense not producing; Dominic Smith at the plate + more...

Notes and quotes before this weekend’s series between the Nationals and the Twins...

No Offense, But...:

Keibert Ruiz went 0 for 4 in the first game of the Nationals’ two-game set with the Orioles, but his final at-bat was a seven-pitch battle with Fèlix Bautista, the O’s’ closer, which Ruiz’s manager Davey Martinez pointed to after the catcher’s 3 for 4 game in the second matchup with their regional rivals as a breakthrough of sorts.

“Keibert had a good day today, but he was covering all the pitches,” Martinez told reporters, after a 4-0 loss in which Washington struggled at the plate again, after they were shut out in the opener with Baltimore as well. “[Ruiz] had some good swings. I think that’s all related to his at-bat last night, the last at-bat he had, he had a really good at-bat, and he brought that at-bat today to the game and did really well. We hope that we keep him right there.”

Ruiz collected three of the Nats’ six hits in the loss, but the club went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position overall and nine left on base in a second consecutive shutout loss.

Cleveland Guardians v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“The other guys got to get ready,” the Nats’ skipper said, turning from Ruiz to the rest of his hitters.

“They got to get ready to hit the fastball and explode on the fastball. Just don’t feel for it, let it go, see what happens, but be ready to hit the fastball.”

In the back-to-back losses, the Nationals were a combine 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and 15 LOB in the series.

“Sometimes it happens,” Martinez said of his hitters as a group struggling at the plate.

“We talked about this before,” he added, “about the hitting. Hitting comes and goes. It really does. There’s no rhyme or reason. Other than that, I know we’ve got to hit to score, but I like the way we’re pitching, I like the way we’re playing defense. We’ve got to stay right there.

“The hitting will come. The hitting will come. We just got to stay positive, keep pounding, and like I said, be ready to hit the fastball.”

Dom’s Slump:

In his first nine games this season, Dom Smith went 11 for 35 (.314/.400/.314) with five walks and five Ks in 40 PAs.

But over the last seven, including Wednesday’s 0 for 2, two-walk game, the 27-year-old slugger is a combined 3 for 27 (.111/.226./111) with three walks and six Ks in 31 PAs.

Before the second of two with the Orioles this week, the Nats’ skipper discussed what he’s seen from the first baseman at the plate.

“I think against right-handed pitching Dom has always had some good numbers against right-handed pitching,” the manager said.

Smith’s splits early this season (.167/.271/.167 in 48 PAs vs RHPs; .350/.435/.350 in 23 PAs vs LHPs), are in line with a career trend, of reverse splits (.237/.296/.419 vs RHP; .273/.352/.401 vs LHP).

“He’s in a little bit of a funk, but I think he’ll get out of it,” Martinez continued.

“Our lineup is very well-balanced with him hitting two, and all the switch-hitters, keeping our younger players down. I think Luis [García] is doing a great job hitting five for us right now, and CJ [Abrams] keeping him down at the bottom of the order, getting him to relax a little bit, and he’s still learning a lot.

MLB: APR 12 Nationals at Angels Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Dom understands — he’s frustrated a little bit right now, but I told him, I said, ‘Hey, we’re so early in the season. I get it, I know everybody wants to go 4 for 4,’ but it’s tough. But I know you’re going to hit, so keep your head up, and you’re going to get opportunities to drive the ball and drive the ball with runners on base, and you’re going to come through. So just keep your head up, and keep battling.”

In a follow-up, reporters asked why he’s kept his young hitters at the bottom of the order early this season, with some of the veterans struggling to produce.

“Because they’re learning a lot about pitches they can hit,” Martinez explained, “recognizing pitches, chase rate — Luis has done a great job on not chasing, getting the ball in the zone. CJ did a really good job — he started chasing a little bit after we left Colorado, now we’re trying to get him back to not [chasing]. Yesterday I thought he did a better job of that. So we want to keep him down there without putting a whole lot of pressure on him, and just let him play the game.”