Schwarber (2 HR), Ross (8 IP) shut down SF

June 13th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- Manager Dave Martinez had a feeling could thrive batting leadoff in the Nationals' lineup.

"I think Schwarber likes it because, like yesterday, he’s a guy that can get something going right away,” Martinez said Sunday before the Nats’ 5-0 win over the Giants.

Martinez made the adjustment to bump Schwarber up to the No. 1 spot and move Trea Turner to No. 2 on Saturday for a split doubleheader vs. San Francisco. Schwarber belted a leadoff homer in the first inning of Game 1 -- his first since June 27, 2019 -- and set the tone for the series finale the following afternoon.

“He’s one of those guys where, he’s a gamer,” Martinez said. “This guy never shuts it off -- he really doesn’t. I know what to expect from him every day, and when you see him go out there and do what he does, he’s prepared for that.”

On Sunday, Schwarber rocked a changeup from Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto a Statcast-estimated 407 feet to right-center field in the first at-bat of the game -- his seventh career leadoff homer. One inning later, he sent a Cueto fastball 426 feet to the same area of Nationals Park for a three-run shot.

In doing so, Schwarber became only the second Nationals player in team history (2005-present) to homer in the first and second innings. Bryce Harper also did it twice on May 4, 2018, and April 19, 2017.

As noteworthy as his success was batting leadoff this weekend, Schwarber considers it “just another position in the batting order.” He entered Sunday having hit in the No. 1 spot in 100 career games, and he doesn’t place extra pressure or expectations on the role. Instead, Schwarber attributed his home runs to consistent work in the batting cage.

“I always think it’s kind of funny seeing him lead off in front of Trea [Turner], because usually you think of him as a three/four guy,” starting pitcher said with a smile. “But he’s done great. Kind of like [Ronald] Acuña [Jr.] with the Braves leading off, it’s kind of immediate danger in the box. … It’s always great to have a lead.”

Schwarber got the Nationals going for Ross’ dominant, scoreless eight-inning start, which tied a career high. He recorded nine strikeouts and allowed five hits without a walk over 108 pitches while contributing three sacrifice bunts. The Nats only had to make one call to their taxed bullpen.

“It was a confidence builder to go that late and have the velocity there towards the end and not run out of gas,” Ross said, adding, “I felt great.”

The right-hander from the Bay Area became only the second opposing pitcher to toss seven frames against the Giants this season.

“Joe was awesome,” Martinez said. “He had a mix of four good pitches and kept the ball down. His two-seamer was really, really good, very effective. But his slider and changeup were also good. His four-seamer, he elevated when he needed to. Just a great, great day for him.”

With a combination of offense and strong pitching on Sunday, the Nationals split the four-game weekend series with the NL West-leading Giants.

“Remember,” Schwarber said into the camera at the conclusion of his postgame Zoom, “this is a good team. You guys stay with us now, all right? Stay with us.”