In the first matchup of the sort-of-doubleheader in D.C. on Sunday afternoon, which started off with the completion of Saturday’s suspended game, CJ Abrams hit a go-ahead single off of New York’s reliever Stephen Nogosek in the bottom of the fourth, after the Mets rallied to tie things up at 1-1 in the top of third.
When the visitors tied it up again with a run in the top of the seventh, Abrams hit a 90 MPH, 1-0 cutter from right-hander Dominic Leone 411 feet to center field in Nationals Park, to put the home team back on top in what ended up a 3-2 win.
C U, CJ pic.twitter.com/ja16FNdNve— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 14, 2023
“His go-ahead home run,” the Nats wrote after the first game, “...[was] his second go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later this season against the Mets (eighth-inning grand slam April 27).”
Whether it’s against the Mets or any other team, Abrams said he’s just happy to come up with big hits.
“It doesn’t really matter who it is, really, it’s just good for the confidence. Get things going. good for the team as well. We’re winning, so let’s keep going.”
Abrams went 2 for 4 with a home run, two RBIs, and a run scored in the win, then he drove in both of the runs the Nationals scored in an 8-2 loss in the second game of the afternoon against the Mets.
Abrams now leads all Nationals’ hitters with 21 RBIs on the season, and his manager talked after each of the games on Saturday about what he’s seen from the 22-year-old shortstop, who finished the day with a .250 AVG on the year, up from .233 at the start of play Saturday afternoon.
“He’s been working hard to get his swing flatter, through the zone more, keep in the zone more, and laying off pitches, swinging at strikes,” Davey Martinez said between games.
“When he does that, he can hit the ball hard,” the manager added. “We’ve seen it. And he’s been working really hard with [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] on just his swing path, and just going straight to the baseball. And today he got two pitches to hit, hit them both hard.
“And if we can get him consistent that way, I always said the pop is there, but we got to have that swing consistently through the zone as much as possible.”
Abrams said he and Coles have been putting in the work behind the scenes.
“Just simplifying in the cage,” he explained. “Stride direction is probably one of the biggest things. And then right direct to the ball has been working.”
The key to more consistency from Abrams at the plate?
“It’s work,” Martinez said. “Continuing to work. He’s got to understand really who he is and what he wants to do up there.
“Today was a good day for him, so hopefully he learns off of that, builds off of that, and continues to do that.”
What the manager really likes, he said before Abrams drove in two runs in the loss to the Mets in the second game, is how calm the shortstop stays in big at-bats.
“My thing is that he doesn’t panic,” Martinez explained. “He is who he is. He goes up there, and he was on time. I watched him, he got back early, he stayed in his legs, and really, he got the bat through the zone really quick, so when he can do that, nothing seems to rattle him.
“I think there’s some guys that have the knack, that want to hit with guys on base. He’s been pretty good at it. The other thing I was talking with [GM Mike Rizzo] about — how he’s the one guy, if we got to get a guy over from second base, he’s been really good, and really conscious about trying to pull — get the ball over there, and the biggest thing is is he really tried to get over, he tried stay in the middle of the field, which is awesome.”
Martinez said what really stood out was Abrams’ at-bat in the bottom of eighth inning in the second game, and how he stayed focused in spite of stepping in with the club down seven runs at that point.
“I love the base hit there at the end,” he said. “He didn’t give an at-bat away, against a lefty [Zach Muckenhirn], drives the ball the other way, picks up another RBI, which is great for him, but he’s being on time, and he’s staying on top of the baseball, which is what we’ve been working on with him. So he had a really good day today. So we’ve got to keep him going.”