Nationals Notebook: Nats can’t hide but they can run

Washington Nationals' Lane Thomas is safe stealing second base against Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner, left, during the inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Washington. Thomas advanced to third as the ball got by Turner. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)(AP/Nick Wass)

It’s easy to be impressed with big swings. Power pitching and power hitting are the most impressive, and we’ve seen both in D.C. over the years in Max Scherzer’s 20-strikeout night to Bryce Harper hitting 42 homers during his MVP season of 2015.

But in a world where the Nationals don’t have a collection of home run hitters (their eight are tied for 21st in the majors and that number puts them on pace to be in the neighborhood of 2023’s total of 151 that ranked 29th), you’ve got to scratch and claw your way to pad your scoring.

Sunday’s sweep-averting 3-2 win over Philadelphia saw the Nats steal four bases and get their game-winning run on a sac-fly. Lane Thomas actually jump-started the game-winning rally with an infield single before stealing second and taking third on an error.

“We’ve been talking to him about how to steal,” Manager Davey Martinez said. “Gerardo Parra has been doing a great job with him and the other guys on what to look for. We’re going to expose other teams when we can.”

Thomas stole a career-high 20 bases last summer and already has six of the team’s 16 steals in 2024.

“We’re going to hit our home runs, but I don’t think that’s our identity as a team so I think it’s really important to take advantage on the bases and get some runs early that way.”

And in Sunday’s win, the little things loomed large.

Digesting the Division: Atlanta (6-2) isn’t just in first place; the Braves spent the weekend sweeping reigning National League champ Arizona.

Philadelphia (4-5) has moved up in the standings thanks to their series win over the Nats. Washington (3-6) and the New York Mets (3-6) are off to the same start two years removed from the Nats’ 100-loss campaign and the Mets’ 100-win season.

Miami (1-9) is the first team to lose its first 8+ games the season after making the playoffs, and even with a 10-3 win Sunday owns a -25 run differential.

Break up the Birds: The Orioles (5-4) started the week by winning their series with Kansas City thanks to a pair of walk-off victories. Then they dropped a pair of one-run games at Pittsburgh. It’s only April, but the O’s are in third place behind the New York Yankees (ugh) and Boston (gasp!). They’ll battle both between now and the end of the month.

Last Week’s Heroes: Joey Gallo hit .313 with two homers and three RBI, making his 0-12 start at the plate a distant memory (or at least until the next 0-12). C.J. Abrams went .389 while driving in four.

Kyle Finnegan (two saves) and Hunter Harvey (2.2 scoreless innings) pitched well out of the bullpen, while MacKenzie Gore struck out six over 5.2 innings Sunday to post his first win of the season.

Last Week’s Humbled: Josiah Gray pitched a little better than the opener, but still coughed up six runs over 4.1 innings. Robert Garcia (two runs over two innings) and Matt Barnes (two runs over 2.2 innings) had less than ideal outings. Joey Meneses batted .136 while Jesse Winker hit .091.

Game to Watch: Monday, the Nats begin a three-game series in San Francisco, playing in a beautiful ballpark by the bay. Trevor Williams makes his second start of the season after posting arguably the best start during the rotation’s first turn and pitches against reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

Even with the Men’s National Championship game being played at the same time, spending the evening watching two TVs is a good way to eliminate a case of “the Mondays.”

Game to Miss: Saturday the Nats wrap up their series in Oakland, playing in a less than beautiful park on a different side of the bay. Trevor Williams pitches again but this time his counterpart is Alex Wood, whose early-season ERA is 9.72. Laundry and housecleaning time!

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Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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