Trevor Williams and Miles Mikolas both tossed four scoreless innings in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday afternoon, as the Nationals tried to avoid a sixth consecutive loss and a second straight series sweep, in the finale of their three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Williams was able to get through the fifth as well, then Mikolas cracked first, giving up a two-out, opposite field homer on a 1-0 fastball, up high and outside which CJ Abrams powered out to left field for a 382-foot solo shot which put the home team up 1-0 in the nation’s capital.
Luis García (10) and Jeimer Candelario (22) hit back-to-back doubles in the first two at-bats of the Nationals’ 6th, with García scoring on Candelario’s, 2-0, and Candelario drove García in with an RBI groundout after the second baseman hit his 11th double of the year in the 8th, 3-0.
Williams gave the home team six scoreless, coming back out for the seventh, but manager Davey Martinez went to the bullpen (for Mason Thompson) after the starter gave up a hit in the first at-bat. Thompson got two outs, before Kyle Finnegan came on to get the third out, and then returned to the mound in the eighth for a scoreless frame. Hunter Harvey got the ninth, and completed the combined shutout.
“That was awesome,” manager Davey Martinez said after his club snapped a five-game slide with a 3-0 win. “Very clean game. Trevor goes out there, gives us six strong innings, then the bullpen comes in and shuts them down. We got some clutch hitting there, CJ hits the ball the other way for a homer, that was pretty nice, but all in all I liked the way we played, we played very clean, we played good defense. So good game for us.”
“He’s throwing those sinkers running away from me,” Abrams said of his 7th home run of the season, breaking down his big hit.
“I was just trying to go the other way with it. I didn’t think it was going to go out, but it left.”
“The fact that he stayed on the ball as well as he did,” Martinez said, “... and hit the ball the other way. He’s been working with [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] about staying on the ball. The ball jumps off his bat, it really does. If we can keep him in the middle of the field, he’s going to be really good. And you saw that today.”
Martinez also saw his starter put together one of his best outings of the season so far.
“Just mixing in all his pitches,” the manager said of what made Williams effective. Over the six-plus innings on the mound, Williams generated just eight swinging strikes, but he got a total of 16 called strikes on a rainy day in D.C.
He pulled the starter when he did, he said, based on what he’s seen from Williams so far in his return to starting this season, after a year and a half splitting time between the bullpen and rotation in New York (NL).
“He really had good stuff today,” Martinez said. “When he gets around that 75-80 pitch mark, for him because he hasn’t started really in a — this is first time he’s starting in year or so, so that to me is good enough when we have Mason [Thompson] ready to go and those other guys in the back end of the bullpen. They all did their job today and it was tough to pitch out there today.”
Did Williams think it was his best start of the year?
“Possibly, with the results, sure,” he said. “But is today the best I’ve felt this year? No. But it’s one of those where you get 32 starts, 33 starts, and you’re going to feel amazing for five, you’re going to feel awful for five and you’re trying to figure out everything in between. So I’m just thankful that today we came out and played well.”
Avoiding the sweep and snapping the losing street meant a lot to the Nationals and their manager.
“It felt really good,” Martinez said. “And I always talk about, forget about what happened yesterday. Forget about what happened the day before. We need to be where our feet are, right, and take care of today. And these guys came out today. They came out like they do every day, they put those games aside and they come back ready to play baseball. And today we played a really, really good game. I’m proud of the way they went out today, so let’s continue to do that. Go out there tomorrow and limit our mistakes, play good clean baseball and throw strikes.”