'We don't quit': Nats seal first win of '24 with late comeback

March 31st, 2024

CINCINNATI -- There was a boisterous morning in Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla., when the Nationals ran through a spirited 27-outs drill. Its purpose is a mantra manager Dave Martinez frequently emphasizes, and the Nationals exemplified it just two games into the regular season.

The Nationals earned their first win of 2024 with a 7-6 comeback victory over the Reds on Saturday at Great American Ball Park.

“My biggest thing is that we don’t quit,” said Martinez. “We keep playing hard and we keep fighting. We keep fighting until the end, and they did that today.”

The Nationals entered the ninth inning trailing 6-4 after Keibert Ruiz’s game-tying solo home run in the eighth had been erased by a Nick Martini two-RBI double off Hunter Harvey. Facing a deficit in front of an opposing crowd, the Nats blocked out the obstacles and approached the final frame with a balance of energy and poise on both sides of the field.

In the lead-off at-bat, CJ Abrams added on to a standout day -- which included one triple, three runs, three walks, three stolen bases and a web gem -- by drawing a walk against Alexis Díaz.

Abrams stole second base to put himself in scoring position for Jesse Winker to continue his notable performance against his former club. Winker (2-for-4, one RBI, one walk) drove in Abrams with an RBI single to center field.

“Davey tells me if I walk, it’s a double,” said Abrams. “So I try to get on there for the team and score runs.”

Joey Meneses fought back from an 0-2 count and sliced a single past shortstop Elly De La Cruz to advance Victor Robles (who was the pinch-runner for Winker) to third.

In a tight, one-run situation, Martinez made the call for the second Major League debut of the day. No. 16 prospect Trey Lipscomb had started the game at third base, and No. 19 prospect Nasim Nuñez was tabbed to pinch-run for Meneses at first. With an unshaken approach, the speedy Nuñez stole second base.

“It was step by step,” said Nuñez, a 2023 Rule 5 Draft pick from the Marlins' organization. “My first goal was just get to second and then play baseball. It’s the same game.”

After Joey Gallo walked to load the bases, Ruiz was hit by a pitch to bring in Robles for the game-tying run. Veteran Eddie Rosario plated the rookie Nuñez with a sac fly off Brent Suter for the go-ahead run.

“I love it,” said Rosario. “I’m so happy when you win games. I see these young guys doing a great job, fighting all game. It’s awesome to see.”

Fittingly, it was a young player -- Lipscomb -- who clinched the Nationals' win by nabbing Tyler Stephenson on a groundout with the composed focus of simply putting himself in position to make the play.

“I give kudos to our whole team,” said Martinez. “All 26 guys, they participated, they played and they did really well. It was a good win for us. We battled back, we were behind, we battled back and we hung in there. Like I said, I know one thing about this team and we’re going to fight for 27 outs and it showed today.”