Nationals' Stevenson on a tear since callup

OF extends hit streak to 11 in DH, is playing his way into '21 plans

September 27th, 2020

WASHINGTON -- Talk about making the most of an opportunity.

After spending the majority of the 2020 season at the Nationals’ alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., was recalled on Sept. 18 to play out the rest of the year at the big league level.

The 26-year-old outfielder is making a case for why he should stay here.

Stevenson extended his hitting streak to 11 games during Saturday’s doubleheader sweep over the Mets at Nationals Park, which was secured by a 5-3 win in the nightcap. The left-handed-hitter has recorded at least one base knock in every game since rejoining the Nationals.

“I think it’s just staying loose and having fun,” Stevenson said with a smile. “I’m just trying to take advantage of all the opportunities they’re giving me.”

In Washington’s 4-3 Game 1 win, Stevenson hit two home runs off reigning back-to-back Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. The first was a 405-foot blast to center field in the third inning that got the Nats offense ignited in Max Scherzer’s final start of the year.

In the fifth, Stevenson connected for an inside-the-park homer when left fielder Dominic Smith collided with the wall while chasing the ball, which landed 332 feet away from home plate. Stevenson previously had hit only one Major League long ball in his career, back in August 2018.

“That’s kind of one of the things you look at and you don’t really expect to do -- he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Stevenson said. “Just to be a part of that is something pretty cool.”

Stevenson carried his momentum into Game 2, where he led off the bottom of the first with a bunt to third base off Mets starter Rick Porcello. During his hitting streak, Stevenson is batting .406 (13-for-32) with nine RBIs, five doubles, one triple, two walks and seven runs scored in addition to the two homers.

“He’s seeing the ball well, he’s hitting the ball well,” said Nats manager Dave Martinez. “What I like is he’s using all fields. He’s driving the ball, he’s staying behind the baseball. Today, you saw him lead off the game with a bunt base hit. So he’s playing really good now. Like I’ve said before, I’ve always liked the way he swung the bat.”

Over the last four years with the Nationals, Stevenson has been called upon when the team needs a lefty pinch-hitter or backup at any of the outfield positions. Late in this season, Washington wanted to get a look at in right field. That created an opportunity for Stevenson to get consistent reps in the lineup as the Nats weigh their defensive options. Right fielder -- whose season was ended Sept. 17 due to a fractured left index finger -- has a $10.5 million team option (with a $1.5 million buyout) for 2021.

“When you’re out there, it’s trying to help the team win every day,” Stevenson said. “I’m definitely getting a little extended playing time and trying to do my best. We’ll see what happens with it.”

For Martinez, Stevenson’s potential as an everyday player isn’t just what he can do against right-handed pitchers. He also has talked with Stevenson about improving on defense, bunting, stealing bases, baserunning and other situational areas of the game.

“Hopefully he can build off of this and run with it," Martinez said. “Then we get him back next year, and we’ll see where we’re at.”

Stevenson is capitalizing on this stretch of playing time in late September. He is leaving a strong impression on the Nationals as they approach the offseason, and he will be prepared to compete for a roster spot once again in 2021.

“I think it’s just believing in yourself, and I believe I’m a great player and if I get an opportunity, I can go out and produce,” Stevenson said. “So that was kind of always in the back of my mind -- just to be ready, you never know, and take advantage of all the work you’re putting in each day, because eventually it’s all going to pay off.”