Nationals' offense comes to life in loss

April 5th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- A quiet offense was awakened.

After tallying 23 hits in their first four games of the season, the Nationals recorded 16 against the Rays on Tuesday. Their efforts fell short against Tampa Bay’s three-homer rally in the ninth inning off closer Kyle Finnegan in a 10-6 loss at Nationals Park.

“We stayed on the ball, we hit the ball, we used the whole field today -- it was nice,” said manager Dave Martinez. “We still need to do a better job of getting that guy home from third base, less than two outs. Those are big runs. But I thought overall, we swung the bats better.”

The Nationals entered Tuesday having been outscored, 21-9, and out-hit, 36-23, by the Braves and the Rays. Among the starters, and  were still looking for their first hits of the season. 

Facing an undefeated Rays club, the Nationals’ bats were jolted with hot hitting dispersed throughout the lineup. Leadoff batter (3-for-5, three RBIs) and Call (3-for-4, two RBIs, one run) led the team in hits. (2-for-5, one run),  (2-for-4, two runs) and Abrams (2-for-3, one run) also had multihit efforts. 

“It’s really good to see guys putting up good at-bats, guys getting rewarded for it and getting a little bit fortunate, too,” said Call. “… The momentum gets going, guys feel it and the whole team feels it.” 

While the Rays won the game with home runs, the Nationals were clicking at the plate off 13 singles. Only three of their hits were for extra bases. Abrams, Thomas and pinch-hitter  connected for doubles.

“I know these guys [the Rays] have a history of good starters and good relievers, and that’s why they’re a really good team,” said Thomas. “Doing a lot of little things right like that gets those guys’ pitch counts [up] and maybe gets them out of the game a little bit earlier.” 

Still, the Nationals struggled to maximize offensive opportunities. They were 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position, bringing their batting average to .128 in that situation this season. Driving in those on base continues to be a point of emphasis.

“Those are the runs, to me, that we need to capitalize on,” said Martinez. “We’ve got to move the baseball, we’ve got to drive those runs in. But if you score six runs and you’re in the ninth inning and you’ve got the lead, those are games we’ve got to win.”

In one night, the Nationals surpassed their hit total from the previous three games combined. Call described their success as “pass[ing] the baton on to the next guy, pick[ing] each other up.” They will look to carry that momentum with a quick turnaround to Wednesday’s matinee series finale.  

“We did a lot of things well,” said Call. “Baseball happens and you hate it, it hurts, but you move on and you look at the positives. Look at all the hits we had, we made plays, we ran the bases hard. … So you move forward.”