Nats snap skid, break out for 12 runs vs. Twins

May 21st, 2024

WASHINGTON -- Manager Dave Martinez reminded the Nationals to relax. Their losing streak had grown to five after being swept by the Phillies this past weekend, but Martinez wanted them to think about how they continued to battle and scored two runs in the ninth inning.

Monday, he encouraged the Nats to bring that momentum into the earlier frames when they returned to Nationals Park to open the series against the Twins.

“We’ve got to score early and then see how the game ends up,” Martinez said pregame. “But we’ve been scoring late -- a lot. Today, I hope we score early -- a lot.”

The Nationals heeded the advice in their 12-3 win over the Twins.

After hitting 1-for-12 in Philadelphia, Joey Meneses got the offense going with a single off Twins starter Pablo López in the second inning. Luis García Jr. then belted his fourth home run of the season a Statcast-estimated 378 feet to right field above the bullpen to give the Nats an early 2-0 lead.

“It definitely brings a different kind of energy and excitement to the team in the dugout, especially after coming off a tough road trip in general,” García said of scoring early.

Before the Nationals started doing damage with small ball, Jesse Winker, one of the offensive highlights from Sunday’s loss, joined in the home run momentum. He homered in back-to-back games with a full-count, 403-foot solo shot to center field in the fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead.

“[He’s] getting the ball up in the zone,” said Martinez. “He’s another guy that we talked to him about staying on the ball, not trying to do too much. When he does that, he hits the ball hard.”

Martinez’s pregame message rang true in the fifth inning: “Just relax and try to get on base for the next guy,” he had said. “Any way you can, try to get on base. Move the baseball and let’s see what happens.”

The Nationals batted around the order in the fifth inning, scoring four runs in an inning for the first time since May 5 against the Blue Jays. Joey Gallo singled on a four-seamer to open the frame. Keibert Ruiz, who entered the game batting .152, connected on his second double of the season. That set up Jacob Young to send a ground-ball single into center field that drove in the runners. Like they had done in the second inning, Meneses and García got on base again and both plated a pair of runs.

A 7-1 Nationals lead after five marked the end of the night for the right-hander López.

“It’s frustrating,” López said. “I am not going to say that it’s not. I went back to look, and they weren’t bad pitches in not bad locations, but sometimes baseball is the way it is. I was trying to make good pitches early in the at-bats and feed off their aggressiveness. They did not let go of their approach. They were swinging early, putting the ball in play and balls were landing, going through holes.”

Nationals starter, Washington's No. 20 prospect Mitchell Parker, on the other hand, was on the receiving end of a comfortable cushion in his seventh career start. The southpaw pitched six complete innings, holding the Twins to three runs with seven hits and seven strikeouts.

“It was great,” Parker said. “The bats were on fire today, so it made my job significantly easier. I was happy with that.”

Though early offense had been an emphasis, the Nationals weren’t willing to get complacent with the lead. They added three more runs in the sixth and two in the eighth.

Eddie Rosario scoring from first base in the sixth inning embodied the energy of the Nats approach. After singling and stealing second, Rosario capitalized on catcher Christian Vázquez’s throwing error to third base attempting to nab Young. Rosario bolted home as left fielder Willi Castro attempted to throw him out, sliding in safely to make it double-digit runs for the Nats.

“I think a lot of us have had a tough week offensively,” Rosario said. “I think it’s great motivation and adding to the confidence of having several base hits in the game today, and I think it’s going to add to us starting to play a lot better.”