In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Nationals’ new-look lineup was able to explode for eight runs against Milwaukee.
After starting the season 13-28, Dave Martinez decided enough was enough and made some much-needed lineup changes for yesterday’s game against the Brewers. Through the first two games of the series, the Nats offense scored one run on 15 hits and were outscored 12-1. Martinez’s lineup tweaks saw instant results, scoring five runs against Freddy Peralta before he left in the fourth inning with an injury.
Last year Peralta emerged as arguably the best third starter in MLB — emphasizing how impressive the Nats offensive outburst against him was. Washington went on to win 8-2, capped by a six-run fourth inning that started with eight straight hits. Eight of the Nationals’ nine starters had a hit in the game, with Josh Bell being the lone player left out.
Be it a one-game sample size, every move Martinez made seemed to pay off. The most notable move was bumping Juan Soto down a spot in the lineup to where he hit last year — third. After emerging as one of the most dangerous hitters with runners in scoring position, Soto had become a liability in the same situations.
All year long, the majority of Soto’s damage has occurred with the bases empty — slashing an ugly .071/.212/.071, with two RBIs, and an OPS of .284 with RISP. Yesterday, he went 1-5, with two RBIs, and even when he got out was making plenty of hard contact, something that had been lacking.
In Soto’s stead, Kiebert Ruiz was shifted to the two hole. The young catcher has flashed his ability to avoid striking out (only 14 strikeouts) and had reached base in nine of his past 10 games. On the day he went 1-5, with an RBI double.
Another shrewd move was starting Lane Thomas over Victor Robles in center. In his career, Thomas has been unable to hit righties, but had his way with Peralta — doubling in each of his two matchups against him. He finished the day 2-4 with two RBIs.
Moving Ruiz up and pushing Soto down allowed Nelson Cruz, Josh Bell, and Yadiel Hernández more opportunities to hit with traffic on the basepaths. Cruz in particular was able to take advantage, going 2-3 with an RBI (he left halfway in the 7th due to injury precaution). Hernández went 2-4 with both of his hits occurring with no one on.
Washington’s new-look lineup will be put to the test, with the Dodgers arriving in D.C. for a three-game series starting tonight.