Eaton bats leadoff, exits with jammed knee

Twin bill probables; Martinez reflects on passing of Seaver

September 4th, 2020

The Nationals' look at in the leadoff spot on Thursday against the Phillies was cut short when the right fielder exited the game in the fifth inning after running out a sacrifice bunt.

“He jammed his knee on the base,” manager Dave Martinez said following the Nats’ 6-5, 10th-inning loss in the series finale at Citizens Bank Park. “We’ll see what happens. He might be day to day."

The Nationals had been going with Trea Turner and Juan Soto in the first two spots as of late, but Martinez praised Eaton's ability to work at-bats into high pitch counts. Over his nine-year career, Eaton had recorded a .286 average with 669 hits over 2,648 plate appearances batting first in the order. He had yet to serve in the leadoff position this season.

“I just tell him to be that little pesky hitter and try to get on base for the rest of our lineup,” Martinez said, adding, “I know he wants to help us win badly.”

Eaton went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts on Thursday before being replaced in right by Michael A. Taylor. Eaton is batting .220 on the season.

The decision to change up the batting order came after Eaton and Martinez had an hour-long conversation in Martinez’s office following the Nats’ fifth straight loss on Wednesday night. They watched video and chatted about baseball as well as family, catching up with less than a month to go in the regular season and the club's last-place standing in the National League East.

“He takes every at-bat to heart, and he wants to do well for his teammates,” Martinez said. “That’s just who he is. I told him, 'Just relax, have fun.'”

‘Confidence in Voth’
When exited his last start after just two innings and dropped to 0-4 with a 7.99 ERA, Martinez said he and the Nationals' staff wanted to work with the right-hander before his next start. The team is not deviating from its rotation, giving Voth the nod to start in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader in Atlanta.

“I have confidence in Voth,” Martinez said. “We made him the fifth starter. He’s gone through a funk. I watched his bullpen the other day, we worked on some things. … With a seven-inning game, if he could give us four or five good innings, we should be in good shape. I talked to him a lot about being more aggressive in the strike zone, not to nitpick so much, just go after hitters.”

Right-hander , Washington’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is slated to start in Game 2 as the 29th man on the roster. Crowe made his Major League debut on Aug. 22 against the Marlins. He fanned two and allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Martinez on Seaver: ‘He was the man’
Martinez, a New York native, reflected on the passing of baseball legend , who is considered the greatest Met of all time.

“Back then, he was the man,” Martinez said with a smile. “You’re always so worried about pitch count and this and that. … This guy would throw 140 pitches a game. It was no big deal to these guys; they were built this way. You’d watch him, you’d watch Nolan Ryan when he was young -- these guys were horses. They were true No. 1 guys, and you’d love to watch them just attack the hitters.

“When I was a kid, that’s what my dad used to always tell me: ‘If you ever become a pitcher, you want to pitch like Tom Seaver. He’s not afraid.’ I said, ‘OK, Dad, but I’m left-handed [laughs].' He was a household name. … He was one of the guys where, when he pitched, the game was always on.”