'Keep rocking': Nats riding longest win streak in 3 years

June 13th, 2024

DETROIT -- The last time the Nationals won five games in a row, the majority of the team was playing elsewhere. Some, in fact, were not in the Major Leagues yet. A 7-5 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday at Comerica Park lifted the Nats to their first such streak since June 19-24, 2021.

“We’re going out there and competing every day,” said shortstop . “Carrying a good vibe, things are going well for us, we’re getting guys on, getting them in, pitchers are doing their thing, so keep rocking.”

Here are four notable moments as the Nationals look for the sweep on Thursday afternoon.

Irvin quickly locks back in
was unrattled after he allowed a leadoff homer to Matt Vierling. The second-year starter went on to work six innings, allowing six hits and one walk while recording five strikeouts across 98 pitches. Irvin’s ERA dropped to 3.00.

“He threw some really good changeups there toward the middle of the game, which I think got him a little bit off the fastball,” manager Dave Martinez said. “… He got out of the inning with just one run, and then after that, he settled down and pitched really well. He really did.”

Irvin, who is 4-3 (2.19 ERA) in his past nine starts, became the first Nats pitcher to hurl five consecutive starts of six-plus innings allowing two runs or fewer since Max Scherzer in 2019.

“The team here -- our training staff, mental skills staff, coaching staff, everybody -- that’s kind of been the goal to be able to get back into rhythm quicker,” Irvin said. “They’ve helped me do a lot of different stuff that’s adjusted my focus to get back into the count or back into an at-bat. ... It’s been really cool to see.”

An opportunity for Meneses
was tabbed at first base after Joey Gallo was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain he sustained running to first base on Tuesday.

Meneses went 2-for-4 with an opposite-field double, one RBI and one walk.

Meneses has posted better numbers while playing first base than DH-ing since he debuted on Aug. 2, 2022. Entering Wednesday, he slashed .284/.331/.463 (.765 OPS) in 81 career games at first compared to .260/.314/.351 (.664 OPS) 156 games at designated hitter.

“I think, obviously, I like to play first base more because I feel like I am in the game,” Meneses said in Spanish pregame. “When I am DH, I am a little more relaxed because I don’t have to play defense, but I just have time to think about hitting. It is a little frustrating when I am DH and I’m not batting well because my mind is only thinking about that. When I am at first base, I forget a little about hitting and think about defense.”

Patience paying off for Abrams
Abrams connected for his 11th home run of the season while extending his hitting streak to six games. In the first two games of the series, he is 3-for-9 with one double, one triple, one home run and three RBIs.

“He’s starting to be a little bit more patient, which we’ve been harping on for a while now,” Martinez said. “He’s getting better. He’s got to get the ball in the strike zone just like everybody else. When we do that, we’re patient, we get guys on base, this is the reason why we’re scoring some runs.”

Abrams didn’t hit his 11th homer last season until Aug. 6. His Statcast-projected 404-foot dinger off Reese Olson in the third traveled 104.3 mph to right-center field.

“I’m back swinging at my pitches,” Abrams said. “I am kind of shrinking the zone, I’ve been swinging at strikes more often and it kind of shows for sure.”

Harvey, Finnegan answer the call
Martinez did not want to turn to or given their recent workload. But when a four-run lead turned into a one-run game in the eighth inning, Martinez knew he needed to make the calls to the bullpen.

“We tried to stay away from them,” Martinez said. “We had a chance to win the game, so we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do it.’ Hopefully tomorrow, we win 10-0. So we’ll see.”

Harvey pitched a scoreless frame, bringing his series total to 48 pitches (2 2/3 frames) without allowing a run. Finnegan earned his 19th save after he surrendered a homer in the ninth. He is up to 34 pitches (2 1/3 innings) in Detroit.

“I feel like any time you get to the back end of the game and it’s not a huge lead, you’re kind of already in the mindset,” Harvey said. “Tonight happened really quick, so there wasn’t time to think about anything. It was just grab the ball and let’s go. Adrenaline kind of took over.”