Is Robles starting to look like his 2019 self?

Center fielder records 6 RBIs in Game 1 of twin bill, makes costly miscues in Game 2

May 29th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Victor Robles has been waiting for a day like this.

Robles crushed a three-run shot, his first homer of the season, to lift the Nationals past the Rockies 13-7 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Nationals Park. With that victory, the Nationals won a season-high three games in a row.

Robles blasted a line drive that traveled 377 feet at 100.2 mph just inside the left-field foul pole in the fourth inning. He finished 3-for-4 with a career-high six RBIs. It was his first homer since Aug. 4, 2021.

“For there to be a lot of home runs, you have to hit the first one, first,” said Robles via team interpreter Octavio Martinez. “So I’m very happy today for the first one, so hopefully many more to come. I felt as soon as I hit it [that] it was a home run. I hit it very well and I just wanted to enjoy the home run a little bit.”

“I’m really happy for him,” said manager Dave Martinez. “And I know he was ecstatic, just because he loves this team. He loves his teammates, and he wants to contribute. It was a big day for him. I’ll see how he’s doing. But he did really well today.”

It was the kind of day that reminded the Nationals of Robles’ sensational rookie campaign in 2019, when the club won its first World Series. Robles hit .255 with 17 homers and 65 RBIs to finish sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, and he led Major League outfielders in Outs Above Average with 22.

Robles’ previous career high was five RBIs against the Marlins on Sept. 26, 2018. He was thrilled to connect on his first three at-bats Saturday.

“[I am] very excited and very happy that I had the results I had today,” Robles said. “Obviously, all the hard work is paying off and I’m very thankful also that our hitting coach [Darnell Coles], he’s never given up on me -- we keep grinding out there and working hard and it’s starting to pay off.”

Robles reached base four times in Game 1 with the homer, two singles and a hit-by-pitch. The three base hits are his most since a 4-for-5 performance at the Giants on April 29. His skipper has always had confidence in the club’s former top prospect from 2017.

“I truly believe in [Robles and] so does this organization,” said Martinez. “He’s got unbelievable skills. We’ve just got to try to get it out of him, and we’re going to stick with him. As I’ve said before, there’s going to be days where I’ll give him a little breather.”

Despite getting hit by a pitch in Saturday’s doubleheader opener, Robles was back in the starting lineup for Game 2.

“We want him to be our everyday center fielder,” Martinez said. “That’s what we look for him to do. As long as he puts the work in, and we feel like he’s all-in, we’re going to continue to work with him, continue to push him and see what we’ve got from him. I think he’s going to be an unbelievable player.”

After struggling at the plate to begin the season, going 0-for-18 in his first eight games, Robles has bounced back to hit .297 since then and has gone 10-for-29 (.345) with runners in scoring position, collecting Saturday’s homer and 18 RBIs. In his last 11 games, Robles has hit .333.

In each of those two early at-bats on Saturday, in which he singled, Robles was patient, working the count full and 3-1. He hit the homer on a 1-2 count.

“I’ve been working hard in the zone, strike zone, and basically looking for my pitch, and if I haven’t gotten my pitch, then just lay off of it,” Robles said.

Robles’ three-run homer in the 4th inning made it 11-7 Nats. Washington tallied 20 runs in the first two games of the series against Colorado. It was the sixth time this season the Nationals had scored at least 10 runs, matching the MLB lead alongside the Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers.

Unfortunately for Robles, the young center fielder was unable to keep the good vibes going into the second game, as sloppy defense helped the Rockies to the doubleheader split over the Nats, 3-2.

In the top of third, with the Nats leading 1-0, Maikel Franco’s throw to Josh Bell was way off line, allowing Rockies catcher Brian Serven to reach second base. Serven later scored on a Yonathan Daza RBI single and Robles’ throw home bounced off the mound, allowing the runner to advance into scoring position. Charlie Blackmon’s run-scoring single put the Rockies up, 2-1.

"That's the frustrating thing,” Martinez said. “We can't afford to make mistakes. Honestly, the two throwing errors, that shouldn't happen, for me, ever. [On the Franco throw], we have plenty of time to get the guy out at first. The throw from the outfield, [Robles] has no chance to throw him out. Either hit the cutoff man or throw the ball to second base. That was the difference. We gave up a couple of runs right there. We could have been out of the inning with no runs and we lose the game, 3-2."

Robles had a chance to redeem himself with the score tied 2-2 in the seventh. After a leadoff double from Dee Strange-Gordon, Robles’ bunt attempt turned into an easy popout into the glove of Serven. Martinez said Robles was not directed to bunt with two strikes.

"He did that on his own,” Martinez said. “He's swinging the bat well. Take a shot. Take a shot and try and get a hit. We didn't want him bunting right there. That's just another conversation for [Sunday] with him because he is seeing the ball. He is swinging the bat better. We'd rather see him try to drive in a run."