WASHINGTON -- For the first two months of the season, Nationals shortstop Trea Turner had been hampered by a strained hamstring that landed him on the disabled list for 11 games, but it also quelled his impact on the bases in general. But Turner has started to hit his stride
WASHINGTON -- For the first two months of the season, Nationals shortstop Trea Turner had been hampered by a strained hamstring that landed him on the disabled list for 11 games, but it also quelled his impact on the bases in general. But Turner has started to hit his stride in June, including a record performance Tuesday night.
The Nationals stole seven bases in a 6-1 victory against the Cubs as Turner led the way with four, matching his own franchise record set less than two weeks ago.
Turner reached base via a leadoff infield single in the first inning and a leadoff walk in the third and promptly showed why his baserunning sprint speed is the fastest among shortstops at 29 feet/sec this season, as measured by Statcast™. The Major League average for baserunning sprint speed is 27 ft/s, and Turner is one of just 16 players averaging 29 ft/s.
He stole second and third base each time, which led to the Nats' first two runs as he scored on Brian Goodwin's infield single in the first and on a throwing error in the third -- a play the Cubs challenged before the call was ruled to stand.
Here's a breakdown of each of Turner's stolen bases:
"That's something [first-base coach Davey Lopes] and even [manager Dusty Baker] is trying to harp on me, [Goodwin], [Michael Taylor], just to be aggressive and not make dumb mistakes," Turner said. "Not run into outs, and put pressure on the other team. That's an example of it right there."
The Nationals exploited an opening they saw with Cubs right-hander Jacob Arrieta on the mound and catcher Miguel Montero behind the plate. Arrieta is normally a bit slow to the plate, and Montero had not thrown out a single batter all season, entering Tuesday night's game 0-for-24 against would-be basestealers.
"It really sucked because the stolen base goes on me," Montero said. "When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time. It's like, 'Oh, yeah, Miggy can't throw anybody out.' Yeah, but my pitchers don't hold anybody on. It's tough. ... I don't get a chance to throw. That's the reason they were running left and right. They knew he was slow to the plate, simple as that."
However, Montero, 33, is not as quick as he once was behind the plate. His average pop time to second on stolen-base attempts is 2.11 seconds, compared to the MLB average of 2.00 seconds. For comparison, teammate Willson Contreras has a 1.93 average pop time to second (the league leader is the Padres' Austin Hedges with 1.88 seconds), and would have probably given the Cubs at least a chance to throw Turner out.
But Lopes saw a chance to take advantage of Arrieta.
"You capitalize on things the opposition has a problem with," Lopes said. "He's a great pitcher, but he doesn't appear to be too concerned with holding runners on."
Arrieta added: "When Turner's on the bag, you try to be mindful of that and vary your holds, but he's fast. He's a factor any time he's on. That's why you try to do your best to keep him off base. … I don't care who's behind the plate. He's a threat, and he's shown that and he's got good instincts and he got a good lead. You're better off getting him out, and I wasn't able to do that very well."
Despite his time on the DL, Turner now has 32 steals, which surpasses Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton for the Major League lead. Turner became the first player in Nationals history to have two seasons of at least 30 stolen bases. The four steals by Turner are the most in a single game against the Cubs this season (the previous high was three, done twice this season, most recently on June 4 by the Cardinals). Turner's 32 steals this season are also more than the entire Cubs team combined (23).
"He looks like he did last year when he came up," Lopes said. "He's a very exciting player. He's an impact player. I've been saying that ever since I've seen him, and I'll continue to say that. He makes things happen. That's what his job is, and he does a good job of it."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.