Thomas, Candelario provide fodder for All-Star arguments

June 25th, 2023

SAN DIEGO – With two swings of the bat, and added to their recent offensive surges. 

Their early solo home runs proved enough to lift the Nationals to a 2-0 victory over the Padres on Saturday night at Petco Park. 

“Those guys have been hitting the cover off the ball all season,” said starting pitcher . “For them to give me two runs was all I needed today. Hopefully, those guys continue to have success, and they propelled us to a win today.”

Candelario put the Nationals on the board first with a solo home run in the third at-bat of the game off right-hander Matt Waldron in his Major League debut. Thomas followed with a solo homer in the third. It was the second time in three days the Nats connected for two homers in a game.

“I can’t say enough about Lane,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “I keep saying this: ‘If he keeps doing what he’s doing, to me, he’s an All-Star.’ He really is.

“He’s playing really well in the field. He’s knocking in big runs, hitting home runs for us. And Jeimer’s just been steady – hitting the ball and playing good defense for us, as well. When those two guys get going to hit some home runs, we’ll score some runs.”

Thomas, who went 3-for-4 in the game, has been on a hot streak at the plate since the calendar turned to May. The right fielder hit his first home run of the season on the first day of that month and has not looked back. Thomas’ 13 home runs since May 1 are tied for fifth among NL players during that span.

“He really has a lot of confidence up there,” Martinez said. “He’s getting ready to hit the fastball. First at-bat today, they told him [Waldron] threw a knuckleball, and he swung so late. I gave him a sign -- hit the fastball. And he went up there next time and hit the fastball [for the home run].”

Thomas ranks fourth among leadoff batters (third in the NL) in extra-base hits and he is tied for seventh overall (tied for fifth in the NL) in hits. Zooming into the NL leadoff spot, he ranks second to only Ronald Acuña Jr. in doubles.

Among all these stats, which mean the most to Thomas?

“Any time I do something in the game that helps the team win,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot of homers that end up not mattering. I think ones that give us a chance to win the game is what I care about.”

When looking at Candelario’s season as a whole, Martinez said, “He’s been Steady Eddie."

Two years after tying for most doubles in the Majors, Candelario is tied for second in the NL in the category (23). He also has connected on nine home runs, four shy of his season total last year.

“I told him this over the wintertime, he’s a doubles guy,” Martinez said. “He’s going to run into baseballs and hit home runs on occasion, but focus on just staying in the middle of the field. When he does that, he’s really good.”

Entering Saturday, Candelario ranked first among NL third basemen with a 2.1 fWAR. He is tied for fourth among all players at his position with +9 outs above average, and his defensive value is ranked second among NL third basemen by FanGraphs.

“He’s always been one of the top five third basemen in the game, he really has,” said Martinez. “He does really well over there. We talk about making all the routine plays -- he makes those plays all the time and he can wow you every now and then with a spectacular play.”

For Candelario, it’s about putting himself in the best spot to help the team.

“Getting on base and getting in scoring position for me is really, really important,” he said. “… We’ve got [Joey] Meneses hitting fourth, and he’s a guy that can put the barrel on the ball. I want to be able to score for him and for the team.”