Escobar shows he can 'do anything' for Nats

Veteran shortstop flashes leather, collects 3 hits, steals base in loss to Mets

August 29th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Alcides Escobar is making the most of his first year back in the Major Leagues since 2018.

The versatile infielder extended his hitting streak to 10 games in the Nationals’ 5-3 loss to the Mets on Saturday at Citi Field. He stole his first base of the season and pulled off acrobatic defensive plays at shortstop while also going 3-for-4 at the plate.

“He’s such an unbelievable person to be around,” Nats manager Dave Martinez said Friday. “The guy’s always cheerful, he’s always excited to play.”

An adjustment to tilt his head less has led to Escobar seeing the ball better. He is four games shy of tying his longest same-season hitting streak of 14 games, which he accomplished twice in 2016, with the Royals. To extend this stretch, his approach will be to stay focused and to look for good pitches.

“I just feel very comfortable at home plate right now,” Escobar said. “I’m consistently hitting the ball well, and I just hope to continue the hitting streak.”

Escobar is batting .364 (16-for-44) over his past 10 games.

“He’s staying on the ball, he’s hitting the ball the other way,” Martinez said. “He’s really working good counts, and he’s being aggressive at the same time. He’s staying on top of the baseball and just trying to hit line drives.”

The Nats acquired Escobar, 34, from the Royals on July 3 in exchange for cash considerations. After playing in the big leagues from 2008-18 -- including winning the ‘15 World Series and being named American League Championship Series MVP that year with Kansas City -- Escobar spent ‘19 at Triple-A Charlotte while with the White Sox and ‘20 with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Nippon Professional Baseball Central League.

Escobar started this season by playing 35 games for Kansas City’s Triple-A Omaha affiliate before being traded to Washington.

When the Nationals dealt Trea Turner to the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline, Escobar stepped into the starting shortstop role, where he has made 1,397 big league starts and won an AL Gold Glove Award in 2015.

On Saturday, Escobar ended the fifth inning with an impressive defensive play to prevent a Jonathan Villar hit. He threw the ball 146 feet to Josh Bell at first base, getting rid of it in 0.74 seconds, per Statcast.

“Villar can run a little bit, but the ball was hit hard enough that it allowed me to make the play,” Escobar said. “As soon as it was hit, I knew I had a play on it and was able to do it.”

Martinez also credits Escobar for helping 21-year-old Luis García and 23-year-old Carter Kieboom at second and third base, respectively, as they continue to learn the ropes.

“He’s been really awesome with these guys,” Martinez said.

Escobar is thriving in the second half of a contract year, and he has made a strong impression on the Nationals before entering free agency. In addition to being an offensive spark and veteran leader, Escobar provides coveted defensive flexibility that could allow him to play the outfield as well.

“It’ll be a conversation we’ll definitely have at the end of this season about possibly bringing him back here,” Martinez said. “But I love him. Like I said, his attitude’s been tremendous and he’ll do anything, hit anywhere, do whatever you ask him to do.”