CINCINNATI -- Perhaps the biggest addition for the Nationals this season might be the return of a player who was already on their roster. Playing in just his second game back from a torn ACL, Adam Eaton erupted for a career day to lead Washington to a 13-7 victory over
CINCINNATI -- Perhaps the biggest addition for the Nationals this season might be the return of a player who was already on their roster. Playing in just his second game back from a torn ACL, Adam Eaton erupted for a career day to lead Washington to a 13-7 victory over the Reds on Saturday afternoon.
Eaton, an Ohio native who grew about 90 minutes outside of Cincinnati, collected a career-high five hits, including a pair of doubles, a solo home run in the seventh and a two-run single in the eighth. He showed off his ability as a table-setter at the top of the lineup by scoring four runs and finished the day a triple shy of the cycle.
"What a difference he might have made if they'd had him all last year," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's a terrific player. He gives you good at-bats against lefties and righties. They paid a lot to get him. They felt he was a difference-maker. Having him at the top of their order gives them a different look. It lengthens their lineup."
Eaton's performance paced a Nationals offense that hit four homers to back a strong start from Stephen Strasburg -- 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball (one earned) with seven strikeouts. It was the kind of dynamic day the Nationals envisioned when they acquired him two winters ago and a nice follow up to his impressive 2018 debut on Friday, in his first regular-season game in nearly 11 months.
"It's been great. I couldn't draw it up any better," Eaton said. "It's good to have a good set of teammates, the guys rally in my corner and make it a lot easier to go out there and play."
This was Eaton's second consecutive game to start the season, something he did only once during Spring Training. And although he felt strong following Friday's game, he was honest about his feelings when he woke up on Saturday morning.
"Brutal," he said laughing. "Honestly. It takes a lot to get ready. But once you get hot, I can stay hot."
Indeed, he stayed hot in this game. He could have pushed for the cycle in the fifth inning when he had a chance on a double down the right-field line, and he said he considered it as well, but ultimately decided to play it safe and jog into second base. Eaton has decided to be more careful about his surgically repaired left knee. He has developed a 90-minute routine to prepare for games. Washington will monitor his status closely, especially early in the season. Manager Dave Martinez had a conversation with him before inserting him into the lineup Saturday for a second consecutive game and they will continue to have a dialogue about Eaton's status.
"The biggest thing is to keep him going for the whole season," Martinez said. "Right now, he feels really, really good. We're going to see where he's at again here in a little bit and see what we've got. But he's the guy who gets us going, and he had a great day today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Goodwin, Adams launch homers: Martinez wanted to start a pair of his reserves Saturday -- first baseman Matt Adams and center fielder Brian Goodwin -- because he wanted to "keep them engaged" early in the season. Both decisions paid off.
In the first inning, Adams launched a three-run home run into the right-center-field bleachers off Reds starter Luis Castillo to give Washington an early 3-0 lead. The 460-foot blast was the longest home run of the 2018 season so far and the longest Adams has hit since Statcast™ began tracking 2015. Then in the ninth, Goodwin tacked on some insurance runs for Washington by crushing his first career grand slam into center field.
"They did the job," Martinez said. "They're part of this team. We have to keep them engaged and get them in there as much as we possibly can. They get it. Their teammates get it. It was nice to see them contribute today, and they were jacked up." More >
Solis escapes jam: The Reds mounted a comeback attempt in the seventh inning, loading the bases to knock Strasburg out of the game and bring the tying run to the plate with one out and the heart of their lineup due up. But the Nationals countered with left-hander Sammy Solis, who could be a huge contributor in their bullpen if he remains healthy. Solis froze Reds slugger Joey Votto on a borderline called third strike up in the zone and then induced a groundout back to the mound from Scooter Gennett to escape the jam.
"It's never an easy situation when Votto's in the box," Solis said. "You just kind of pitch to your strengths at that point. Coming at him with fastball, and then I actually went left-on-left change with him, which I don't think he was ready for. And then I came back with a fastball and it worked out."
"It's tremendous. He's really been through a lot. Everybody's been bit by the injury bug and he took a big one. To see him come back and bounce back and all his hard work, to kind of see it manifest, you couldn't be more happy for the guy." -- Goodwin, on Eaton's hot start after the ACL injury
"I mean, I think it's just a testament to the work he's put in. Speaking from experience, it is kind of tough. I'm sure it was really tough on him last year kind of being there every single day and not being able to participate. But yeah, I mean I saw it all last year. He worked really hard. That's just good to see everything pay off." -- Strasburg, on Eaton's comeback
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
This is just the second game in Nationals history in which a player has recorded at least five hits, with three extra-base hits and three RBIs. Eaton joins Anthony Rendon (April 30, 2017) as the only players to do so.
CROSSED UP ON BASES
The Nationals got crossed up on the basepaths in the sixth inning with Goodwin and Trea Turner on first and second base, respectively. Reds right-hander Austin Brice attempted a pickoff attempt to second base and Goodwin broke for second base, which resulted in both players standing on second base. The base still belonged to Turner, however, so Goodwin was called out.
The Nationals go for a sweep of their three-game series with the Reds on Sunday by sending left-hander Giovany Gonzalez to the mound for his season debut. Gonzalez might be often overshadowed by the star power surrounding his team, but he has remained one of the team's most consistent players through the years. First pitch is at 4:10 p.m. ET
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Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.