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Nats crush the ball and Tribe's playoff hopes

@JamalCollier
September 27, 2019

WASHINGTON -- There has been no post-clinch lull for the Nationals after they secured their spot in the postseason earlier this week. They are heating up again and, with the National League Wild Card Game on the horizon on Tuesday, at the right time. Washington has won a season-high six

WASHINGTON -- There has been no post-clinch lull for the Nationals after they secured their spot in the postseason earlier this week. They are heating up again and, with the National League Wild Card Game on the horizon on Tuesday, at the right time.

Washington has won a season-high six consecutive games, including an 8-2 victory over Cleveland on Friday night, knocking the Indians out of postseason contention and gaining a game on the Brewers, who lost on Friday night, in the battle for home-field advantage in Tuesday’s contest. The Nats just need one more win this weekend to ensure that the winner-take-all game will be played at Nationals Park.

Box score

To pull off a win on Friday night, the Nationals received contributions from a few role players who could find themselves in key spots should the team advance in October.

Gerardo Parra broke out of his weeks-long slump with three hits and four RBIs, starting with a two-run double in the second inning, the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the sixth inning and a solo homer in the eighth. Asdrúbal Cabrera came off the bench to deliver a two-run double. Kurt Suzuki made his first start in more than two weeks after being sidelined with inflammation in his right elbow.

“I've been proud of them all year, I really have,” manager Dave Martinez said. “It’s what I always talk about: I want to keep these guys motivated, I want to keep them going. I want all these guys to get their at-bats and just keep playing good baseball. They're playing good baseball right now.”

Big night for Baby Shark

Parra erupted onto the scene in Washington not only because of the dugout dancing line and his fun, fan-interactive walkup song, but for the big hits he has so often provided off the bench. But those hits had disappeared as of late, with Parra coming back to earth after his hot streak and mired in a 3-for-49 slump with no walks, 12 strikeouts, one extra-base hit, and no RBIs from Aug. 13 until he returned to the lineup on Thursday.

In his last two games, Parra has been much more productive, going 4-for-6 with four RBIs over the past two games. This was his first multihit game since Aug. 12.

“Happy. Happy,” Parra said. “A couple games, I don’t feel good at home plate, so I'm so happy, because I feel good right now close to the playoffs.”

Parra has been one of manager Dave Martinez’s most trusted pinch-hitters this season, often inserted into some of the highest-leverage situations. With Michael A. Taylor -- who had three hits on Thursday -- pushing for Parra’s roster spot, a game like this could help swing things back in Parra’s favor.

“I want to get him going, because he’s going to have a big at-bat in this postseason,” Martinez said. “And I know he will. We have to get all these guys going.”

Cabrera makes case to start Tuesday

Martinez likes to jot down different lineup combinations as they come to him, sometimes in his sleep or while doing everyday tasks or on his way to the park. Even though the Nationals don’t know who they are facing on Tuesday night, or even where exactly that game will be played, he has already begun plugging in combinations.

One area where Martinez will have the most flexibility is the right side of the infield, where he will have to decide between five players -- Cabrera, Howie Kendrick, Brian Dozier, Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman -- for starting spots at second and first base. Kendrick leads the Majors in batting average this month and seems almost certain to be in the lineup with the season on the line. And Cabrera continues to make a compelling case to appear as well.

Cabrera drove in two crucial runs in the sixth inning, improving his overall slash line to .322/.401/.570 in 121 at-bats since joining the Nationals. When Martinez writes in a second baseman into his lineup, Cabrera seems likely to get the nod.

“I woke up today with a lineup in my head if we played one team and another one if we played another team,” Martinez said. “We’ll have to see who we’re playing. I mean, that’s the biggest thing, is to see who we’re playing.”

Voth finishes impressive rookie season

No young pitcher in the Nationals organization took a larger step forward this season than Austin Voth, who climbed up the depth chart to seize the fifth spot in the rotation and excelled. His final start of the season continued his impressive climb -- six innings of two-run ball, with five strikeouts.

“That’s exactly how you want to end the season,” he said. “On a good note."

Voth had more than a few good notes this season, posting a 3.30 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 13 walks in 43 2/3 innings. He should be a candidate to make the postseason roster out of the bullpen, and has a good chance to open next season in the rotation.

“I saw him in Spring Training this year and I thought that he had matured a lot,” Martinez said. “He kept going all year. I know he had an injury, but he came back and he’s throwing the ball really well. What I like about him, he doesn’t get rattled, and he keeps pumping strikes. He falls behind, he uses all his pitches, and he knows how to get outs.”

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.