Abrams' clutch hit sparks Nationals win over Cubs

May 3rd, 2023

WASHINGTON -- A simplified approach to offense is helping CJ Abrams have success at the plate.

“See ball, hit ball,” Abrams said.

The shortstop went 3-for-3, including the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning, in the Nationals’ 4-1 win over the Cubs on Tuesday at Nationals Park. He boosted his batting average in the last seven games to .364.

“I was trying to be short to it, get the barrel to wherever the ball was and get my hits in,” Abrams said after the victory.

Abrams, 22, opened his second Major League season without a hit in his first three games. His batting average reached .200 in game No. 6, and he connected for his first homer of the year on April 22.

Since going yard in Minnesota, Abrams has recorded at least one hit in six of his last nine games, including two multi-hit performances and a grand slam at Citi Field in right-hander Trevor Williams’ previous start.

“He’s a great player,” said Williams, who pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday. “He’s a guy that’s all over the field. He’s a menace at the plate. It’s something that I enjoy having him as a teammate, and I know a lot of the guys in here do. But to see him come to the field every day and continue to get better and continue to grow as a big leaguer, this is the best place to develop at the highest level. To see the success that he’s been having lately has been unbelievable.”

Abrams began his night by sending a first-pitch, line-drive single into right field off Hayden Wesneski in the third inning. He scored the first run of the game off a Luis García RBI single. Abrams followed in the fifth frame with another single against Wesneski, this time delivering a ground ball into left field.

The Nats and Cubs were tied 1-1 when Abrams stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning with Dominic Smith at second base. Abrams worked a five-pitch at-bat from reliever Keegan Thompson to send a fastball into right field and drive in the go-ahead run.

“He stayed on top of the baseball, something that we preach with him and work with him,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He did really well. No chasing, he chased a lot less today. But he was able to get the ball down in the zone and he hit the ball hard.”

Outfielder Alex Call’s two-run double drove in Abrams for an insurance run in the seventh.

“He sparked us,” Call said. “He got us going, he put us ahead. Big-time clutch hit. It was really fun to watch him go out there and compete tonight.”

Martinez and the Nationals' coaching staff have daily conversations with Abrams as he continues to develop in his young career. Martinez noted, “He’s starting to understand who he can be.”

“He’s got to continue to lay off the breaking balls, get the ball in the zone and battle with two strikes,” said Martinez. “He did that today really well. I said, ‘Hey, sometimes with two strikes, you’ve got to cut your swing down and just put the ball in play,’ and he did that. He used the whole field -- he stayed behind a fastball today and drove it to left field past the third baseman, and I thought that was awesome.”