Going for their first sweep of the Cincinnati Reds since mid-August 2019 and first sweep at Great American Ball Park since early 2018, Washington’s Nationals, who had not swept any series on the road since late in August 2019 in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, got out to a 2-0 lead when both CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas hit first-pitch home runs in back-to-back at-bats to start the series finale on Sunday.
Abrams hit a 95 MPH four-seamer up high from debuting 2018 Reds’ 2nd round pick Lyon Richardson 402 ft to right field to start the game (No. 11 for the shortstop), then Thomas’s 19th of the year went 406 ft to center on another first-pitch fastball. Jake Alu drove in two runs later in the first, 4-0, and the Nationals went on to win 6-3, with Thomas doubling to drive in a run in the fourth and hitting a sac fly to right in the eighth to pad the lead.
Starter Jake Irvin gave the visitors 4 1⁄3 innings (94 P, 5 H, 2 BB, 3 ER), then the bullpen took it from there, with Andres Machado (2⁄3 IP), Robert Garcia (2 IP), Jordan Weems (1 IP), and a scoreless ninth from the club’s closer Kyle Finnegan for 4 2⁄3 scoreless combined to lock it down.
It all started with Abrams and Thomas.
“They got us off to a great start,” Davey Martinez said after the Nationals’ fourth straight win overall (6-4 in the last 10). “Two pitches, two runs. Staying on the ball well. But those guys are the catalyst for us. I talk a lot about what CJ can do up there for us, and Lane is starting to swing the bat the way he’s been [swinging it] all year, so those two guys, they’ve been consistent in getting us going.”
Abrams went 4 for 5, with two runs scored. Thomas went 2 for 4, for his sixth consecutive multi-hit game in GABP, and he finished the series 7 for 14 with two doubles and three HRs.
“These last 3-4 days he’s been swinging the bat a lot better,” Martinez said of Thomas’s big series in Cincinnati, which came after a tough 5 for 36, 10-game stretch for the right fielder.
“I know he was in a little funk. He got himself out of it. He’s in a good place right now. I love the fly ball to right field to drive in that run from third base.
“That tells me that he’s getting back and he’s able to do some things. He’s been doing well for us all year, playing great defense, running the bases hard, so him and CJ up there are doing the job for us.”
CJ + LANE. BACK-TO-BACK. FIRST TWO PITCHES.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 6, 2023
~EXTENDED CUT~ pic.twitter.com/dqPz95o6KI
It’s not just the top of the lineup getting it done.
“Overall, the team has played really well together. Doing the little things. Getting guys over,” Martinez said before the team left Cincinnati for Philadelphia.
“Getting guys in with less than two outs. Our pitching, I can’t say enough about what our pitchers have been doing.
“Our bullpen’s coming in and locking down the door there. So they’re playing well right now.”
The sixth-year manager in the nation’s capital said his club’s confidence is growing over this recent stretch, with wins in 11 of the last 16 games as well.
“I think they’re starting to believe in one another,” Martinez said.
“When one guy doesn’t do something, they feel like the next guy will do the job. That’s the beautiful thing about playing a team game. Everybody’s got to put forth an effort.
“They’re all doing it, they’re all pulling for one another, and they’re having fun doing it.”
The manager wasn’t aware the road sweep was the first since 2019, when the Nationals won it all.
TALK ABOUTTA 1, 2 PUNCH— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 6, 2023
CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas go back-to-back on the 1st two pitches of the game. pic.twitter.com/OwZJ0AFW8W
They are two completely different teams, of course, with Patrick Corbin the only player still on the active roster from 2019 right now.
So there aren’t too many similarities.
“What I can tell you is, in , we never gave up,” Martinez told reporters. “We never quit. This team doesn’t do that neither. So it’s been a lot of fun. These guys, we grind out at-bats, we try to do the little things correctly. But like I said, they’re playing together as a team, and that’s been a lot of fun. And that’s what we did in ‘19 as well.”
Up next, four with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.
“We got to go play another tough team now tomorrow in Philly,” Martinez said.
“So we regroup, get a nice little short flight, and get ready to go tomorrow again.”