Former Trade Deadline acquisitions lead Nats to victory

July 18th, 2023

CHICAGO -- With the Trade Deadline quickly approaching on Aug. 1, it is easy to focus on who could be coming and going in Washington. The Nationals’ 7-5 win over the Cubs on Monday was a reminder, too, of the steps that already were taken at previous Deadlines to build toward their future.

Catcher Keibert Ruiz, shortstop CJ Abrams, starting left-hander MacKenzie Gore and righty reliever Mason Thompson were acquired in multiple trades over the past two seasons. They all had an impact in the Nationals’ victory at Wrigley Field, where they improved to 8-8 in series openers on the road.

Ruiz: Acquired from Dodgers in Max Scherzer-Trea Turner deal, 2021
Ruiz tied his career high in hits with a 3-for-3 night at the plate that included a two-run home run, two RBIs, a walk and two runs scored. He has gone yard in back-to-back games for the second time this season (last on May 30-31 at the Dodgers).

Ruiz is on a four-game hitting streak, during which he is batting .500 (7-for-14).

“He’s staying back, using his legs, getting ready on time and hitting strikes,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s got unbelievable bat-to-ball skills -- he’s just got to focus on hitting the balls in the zone, and when he does that, he hits the ball hard.”

Abrams: Acquired from Padres in Juan Soto deal, 2022
Prior to the series opener, Abrams was named NL Player of the Week on Monday with a .462 batting average and .923 slugging percentage in the previous three games against the Cardinals.

“It’s the big leagues; it’s not easy to get here. Once you get here, it’s hard to stay here,” Abrams said. “To be able to do something like this is amazing, and it shows you that work can pay off.”

Abrams, 22, continues to thrive since being moved to the leadoff role on Friday. He extended his hitting streak to seven games by going 1-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base vs. the Cubs. He has nabbed 14 bases without being caught since May 3.

“It’s a great accomplishment for a young kid,” Martinez said of the award. “I’m proud of him. … Part of the leadoff spot, and I talk to him about this, is the word ‘leader.’ You become that guy to get on base for eight other guys in the lineup, and he’s taken it to heart and he’s doing really well right now.”

Gore: Acquired from Padres in Juan Soto deal, 2022
The back end of the Nationals’ bullpen is shorthanded without Hunter Harvey, who was placed on the 15-day injured list on Monday due to a right elbow strain, and Carl Edwards Jr., who has been sidelined since June 20 with right shoulder inflammation.

Working deep into starts is a priority for the rotation, and Gore (5-7) delivered 106 pitches across 6 1/3 innings. It was the eighth time this season -- his first full year with the Nats -- he has gone six-plus frames.

“We were hoping to get him to about 105, 110 pitches,” said Martinez. “He was throwing the ball well. I still think when I took him out, he still had a little bit left in the tank. But we had Mason at that point and then [Kyle] Finnegan.”

Gore held the Cubs to one run through the fifth before allowing home runs to Ian Happ and Patrick Wisdom in the sixth and seventh innings.

“If you get into the seventh, you’re doing some things right,” Gore said. “But that’s why this game is tough -- you’ve got a pitch at a time, and if you make a bad one, they hit homers.”

Thompson: Acquired from Padres for Daniel Hudson, 2021
Thompson stepped on to the mound with one out and no runners on after Wisdom had cleared the bases with a two-run homer off Gore. He halted the Cubs’ momentum by retiring Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki. Thompson returned for the eighth, and he recorded a pair of outs to set the stage for Finnegan to record a four-out save.

Thompson completed 1 1/3 frames with two hits, no walks, no runs and one strikeout. Expect him to be called upon in high-leverage situations more often amid the ‘pen injuries.

“He came in, he threw strikes,” said Martinez. “His breaking ball was really sharp tonight, really sharp. We’ve asked him to do a lot all year long, and he stepped up and he’s pitched really, really well for us.”