Nats slug way to win with quartet of blasts

Soto, Kendrick, Adams, Suzuki power Washington to victory

April 18th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are going to have a set lineup this season as often as possible. It’s the way that manager Dave Martinez prefers to keep things, believing the continuity each day can help give his hitters an edge. For Wednesday’s game against the Giants, however, Martinez saw a chance for a few favorable matchups, so he rolled out a lineup with a few tweaks -- and they paid off in a huge way.

The Nationals swatted four home runs Wednesday night at Nationals Park, beginning with Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick’s dingers in the first inning, and continuing with Matt Adams and Kurt Suzuki’s blasts in the seventh to lead Washington to a 9-6 victory over San Francisco. The power barrage helped provide Washington with some added cushion to help its struggling bullpen, which gave up four runs in the ninth inning. It also led the Nats to a much-needed win after dropping three of their past four games.

And it started with the right buttons being pushed off the bench. Kendrick, Adams and Suzuki were starting in place of Brian Dozier, Ryan Zimmerman and Yan Gomes, respectively. Meanwhile, Anthony Rendon hit second in the order to get him the chance at more at-bats and Soto was moved up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, where he responded with a first-inning homer.

“I liked it,” Martinez said. “They scored a bunch of runs, but we had good flow going throughout. We had good at-bats.”

Soto started the action with a two-run homer in the first, punishing a fastball over the middle of the plate from Giants starter Jeff Samardzija. Fastballs have become a rare sight for Soto at the plate lately -- he is seeing the fewest amount of fastballs in the Majors this year -- so when he got one, he did not miss. Kendrick continued his run as one of the team’s hottest hitters with his own solo homer in the first inning, and he is now 10-for-20 (.500) with three doubles and three homers.

The Nationals broke the game open in the seventh, starting with a three-run homer from Adams against Giants left-hander Travis Bergen, a rare homer for the slugger against a southpaw. He hit just one all of last season against a left-hander. Adams was in the starting lineup because of his favorable career numbers against Samardzija, but with a lefty on the mound late in the game, Martinez acknowledged he considering pinch-hitting for Adams before ultimately letting him hit.

“Just a confidence builder,” Adams said. “In Spring Training I faced a bunch of lefties and just got comfortable with it. I think that’s all it is with lefties, just seeing them more times, you know? It’s tough when you see them once or twice and get thrown in there every once in a while, but the more you see them, the more comfortable you get. I think that’s a big thing for me.”

This new-look Nats lineup hit all the right notes Wednesday, even allowing Rendon to get a fifth at-bat in the eighth, where his single to left field extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. But it does not appear this lineup will be around for the long haul.

Although Kendrick has been one of the team’s hottest hitters, Martinez only sat Dozier on Wednesday to give him some extra rest after fouling a ball off his foot Tuesday. And with a day game coming Thursday after a night game, veterans Gomes and Zimmerman were only going to start one of those games, so Martinez picked Wednesday for them to sit.

It’s likely Martinez will go back to his usual order for Thursday’s series finale, with Dozier back in the lineup hitting second and everyone else bumped down a slot. But the way the Nationals responded in this game, it might make Martinez stop and consider his options.

“The way I structured it today was the way I kinda liked it [for today],” Martinez said. “I’m viewing this as getting these guys up there and trying to score early in the game. And getting these guys up as much as possible.”