Martinez sits Turner for not running out bunt

Eaton having success getting on base as leadoff hitter

July 24th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez benched shortstop for Tuesday night's game at Miller Park after Turner didn't run to first base on a two-out bunt attempt that bounced fair in the fourth inning on Monday.

Martinez announced after Monday night's loss that he would likely discipline Turner for the lack of effort when he dropped his bat, threw his helmet down and began retreating to the dugout with the ball still in play. The two had not spoken about the incident prior to Tuesday's game.

"I haven't talked to him yet, but a conversation will be had," Martinez said. "Honestly, I felt after yesterday that he probably needed a day off. He's available, but let him ponder about it and get it right. This is just one of those things."

Turner's did enter Tuesday's 5-4, extra-innings loss to the Brewers as a pinch-runner for in the 10th inning. Turner was picked off and caught stealing second base by Brewers reliever Dan Jennings on a play that Martinez said was up to the baserunner if he wanted to steal.

"We left it up to him," Martinez said. "He doubled up, and we didn't think he'd double up, but he did. That happens."

Turner didn't return to the field in the bottom half of the inning when the Brewers won on a walk-off sacrifice fly.

Ironically, while Turner was benched for a lack of hustle Tuesday, he also received the Nationals' Heart & Hustle Award. Sponsored by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, the Heart & Hustle Award is awarded to players who exemplify "the values, spirits and traditions of baseball."

"We need Trea," Martinez said, "and he's a very good player. It kills me more and it probably kills him. You never want to do things like that. It hurts. It hurts me. As he knows, I voted for him 250 times to get on the All-Star team, so I'm a big Trea fan, and he knows that."

Turner, who finished Monday's loss 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, didn't try to make excuses about the play after the game.

"Kind of self-defense, thought I was going to get hit by it, but ended up bunting it fair somehow," Turner said. "For me, by the time I got my feet underneath me, it felt like the pitcher was already standing right there. Probably should have run to first, but it's a little bit of both."

"I don't ask these guys to be perfect, but I want them to be present," Martinez said. "I know [Turner] knows that. I got a lot of respect for him, and he'll be back in there."

Eaton discusses leadoff mentality

Frustration boiled over for leading off Monday night's game, when he thought he drew a walk but Brewers starter 's 3-1 pitch was ruled a strike by home-plate umpire Nic Lentz. Eaton flipped his bat toward the Nationals' third-base dugout before eventually lining out to center field.

"You have to kind of converse with the umpires, and really everything you need to know about them is temperament and where they give pitches," Eaton said. "It can go one or two ways in your first at-bat: I can either lace a double and that ball gets away from Cain and get the guys fired up, or it can end like it did. Not that we came out flat, but just frustrating right off the bat.

"But that's part of the game, and that's the beauty of the game. Even if you don't know what the zone is going to be like that day or how they're going to react to certain things, it's just part of the game. You have to roll with the punches. I was happy I didn't let it affect me and came and put another good swing on the ball."

Eaton, who is hitting .324 this season after going 2-for-4 with a walk and three-run homer in the Nationals' loss on Tuesday, has fought off a series of injuries since being acquired from the White Sox before last season, but he has impressed when on the field with a .399 on-base percentage in 41 games this season.

"I really believe he's one of the best [leadoff hitters]," Martinez said. "Now that he's healthy, the sky is the limit for him. We need him, and he's that spark plug at the top of the order. He works great at-bats. We need him to get on base for us, and that's what he's doing."

Eaton has led off in 48 of his 64 games over two seasons with the Nationals and is .333 (9-for-27) leading off a game this season. He said his success as a leadoff hitter is a result of having just one goal: get on base.

"As a leadoff hitter your job is to see as many pitches as possible and get on base in any way, shape or form," Eaton said. "That's why I was bunting 3-1 right there. Anywhere else in the lineup, you don't see guys bunting 3-1, but my job is to get on base and let the guys behind me drive me in and do what they're paid to do. If you hit two, three, four, five, six, seven, it's different. Being a leadoff hitter, you have a certain job, and it's to get on the pillow."