FRONT PAGE - Trevor vs the Twins:
Trevor Williams shut the Cleveland Guardians out for five innings in last week’s start, but returned to the mound in the top of the sixth, and gave up a leadoff double and a single before he was replaced on the mound.
One of the two runners he left on did score, for the only run the 30-year-old right-hander allowed in the start, and he expressed frustration with the fact he couldn’t finish what he started in the sixth when he spoke after a 4-3 loss.
“I want to finish things when I go out there,” Williams told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco after start No. 3 of the season for the Nats’ righty. “That’s twice now pitching into the sixth and haven’t gotten that third out in the sixth. So that’s just something to carry over into the next start.”
Last night in a cold Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Williams got off to a good start again, with two scoreless innings on 23 pitches, giving just one hit up, but two pitches into the bottom of the third it was a 1-0 game in the Twins’ favor after Joey Gallo hit an 88 MPH 0-1 fastball over the middle of the plate 386 feet to right field for his 5th home run of 2023.
Gallo No. 5. #MNTwins pic.twitter.com/peQYyU61F0— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 22, 2023
Ryan Jeffers doubled in the next at-bat, (on a catchable ball Victor Robles and Lane Thomas converged on and let drop), took third base on a sac bunt by Michael A. Taylor, and scored on a sac fly by Max Kepler, whose fly to short center made it a 2-0 game after the home-half of the third inning, a 25-pitch frame which left Williams at 48 total on the night.
Williams retired five straight after the sac fly RBI, and seven of eight, working around a one-out walk and striking out three in a scoreless fifth which left him at 79 pitches overall.
He got through the sixth this time, working around a two-out double (sweating a long fly to center by Trevor Larnach which fell into Victor Robles’s glove on the track for out No. 3, 395 feet from home).
Trevor Williams’ Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 93 P, 60 S, 7/6 GO/FO.
Trevor Williams gave us a fighting chance.#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/Nk5ExuID4C— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 22, 2023
“He gave us six strong innings and kept us in the ballgame,” Martinez said after his Nationals rallied to win the first of three in the Twin Cities...
BACK PAGE - No Offense:
“Sometimes it happens,” Davey Martinez said of the offense drying up in the back-to-back shutout Ls to the O’s earlier this week, which left his Nationals with a streak of 18-straight innings without a run.
“We talked about this before,” he told reporters, “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.”
Washington’s combined .250 AVG was 14th of 30 MLB teams going into last night’s series opener in Minnesota, and the Nationals’ .315 OBP was 20th, their .335 SLG was 29th, and with runners in scoring position, the club’s .227 AVG was 23rd, their .292 OBP 25th, while their .273 SLG was 29th. So Martinez decided to shake things up a bit.
Dominic Smith, who had been penciled in as the No. 2 hitter in the previous five games, was dropped down to No. 6 in the midst of a tough stretch (3 for 27, .111/.226/.111, three walks, six Ks, no extra base hits in his last seven games) with Keibert Ruiz (9 for 24, .375/.375/.417 over his last six games) moved from No. 6, where he’d hit for the previous five games, to No. 2.
“We’re just trying to make things happen,” Martinez explained when asked about the moves before the first of three with the Twins.
“We really need to get Dom going. He’s a big part of our offense. I just dropped him down a little bit. Keibert’s swinging the bat well. I talked to him today about not changing anything, just continue to put the bat on the ball. And he’s done well, so we’ll give him an opportunity to hit second today and see how it goes.”
Ruiz went 7 for 27 (.189/.302/.324) in the first 10 games this season, with two doubles, one home run, five walks, and six Ks in his last 43 plate appearances.
In his last six games, the catcher hasn’t struck out at all, a streak of 25 PAs going into the series opener.
“He’s slowed down a lot his lower half,” Martinez said of what’s working for Ruiz at the plate right now. “He’s using his hands a lot better, which is awesome. Something we always talk about with him. He’s got good bat-to-ball skills, as we all know. Trying to get him to lay off — not chase the breaking balls, get the balls up in the zone, and when he does that, he’s able to hit the ball hard. And he’s done it. The last few days have been really good for him.”
Ruiz has also played in nine consecutive games for the Nationals, since he last got a day off in the series with the Rockies in Coors Field, though his manager said they communicate to make decisions every day, and the catcher will probably get a day soon-ish.
“This is based on conversations I have with him, every day we play him during a day game,” the manager said. “He’s done well, and he tells me he feels great right now. So we’re running him out there. We’ll see how the game goes today. I know we’ve got a one o’clock game tomorrow [2:10 PM ET], so that could possibly mean we’ll get Riley [Adams] in to get a game in tomorrow.”
The Nationals’ scoreless innings streak ended at 24 innings, with Tyler Mahle throwing 6 1⁄3 scoreless before Joey Meneses homered in the top of the seventh, making it a 2-1 game in the Twins’ favor...
Joey Meneses is on the board.#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/EFxMV0I9R5— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 22, 2023
CJ Abrams doubled off Twins’ reliever Griffin Jax with two out in the Nats’ half of the eighth, and he scored on a single through the left side by Lane Thomas to tie things up at 2-2, then Keibert Ruiz stepped in with the go-ahead run in scoring position at second and lined a 1-1 fastball to short left-center for the third consecutive two-out hit, 3-2 Nationals.
KEIBERT GIVES US THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/DIj6KGgF01— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 22, 2023
Hunter Harvey struck out the side in a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth after the visitors took the lead.
Kyle Finnegan came on against the Twins’ 3-4-5 hitters, and lost a 10-pitch battle with Byron Buxton, who singled to start the frame. A walk to Trevor Larnach earned Finnegan a visit out on the mound from Pitching Coach Jim Hickey, and with two on and no one out, he got out No. 1 on a Jorge Polanco liner to short.
The closer then dialed up an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off Jose Miranda’s bat.
“As you can see their bats got better,” Martinez said after the comeback win. “[Meneses] lifted everybody up, we got on the board, but you know, I thought Trevor was the key.”
“The bullpen came in and shut them down. But we battled. We battled. We put some balls in play, drove in some big runs, and Keibert with the big hit.”
“They were trying to stay on the ball and just put the ball in play,” he added of the hits by Abrams and Thomas.
“Both came up with a big hit. But even CJ Abrams, with a big hit there, and stretched it out to a double, which is awesome. Look, we played well. I’m proud of the guys. We didn’t give up.
“They went out there and we played good defense again, which is awesome, so big victory for us.”
It’s not the old AL Senators. It’s the Nationals who are playing a string of American League teams. They opened against the Braves, and played four with the Rockies early, but it’s all AL teams for the Nats other than those two, with the Rays, Angels, Guardians, and now the Twins over the first few weeks of the new campaign.
What does Davey Martinez make of the balanced schedule so far?
“You know what,” Martinez said on Friday night, before the series opener in Target Field. “It doesn’t seem to bother me at all, and I think the guys like it, you know, they’re coming to — we haven’t been here since 2019 so we get to come here, we get to see some new faces, some old faces for me with Rocco [Baldelli], I’ve had him as a player, and we go way back, but we get to see some different teams and play some different teams until we get back into that National League, but so far it’s been good.
“I’d like to see us win some more games against them, but that will come.”
“We’ve been bumping heads with some really good teams,” he added, of testing themselves against some tough opponents early, “and for the most part we’ve been right there, we just got to get some consistent hitting. But our pitching has done well. We’ve turned a lot of double plays. Our defense has done well. Now we just got to score one more than the other guys, and go 1-0 today and go from there.”