Turner’s slam, 8 RBIs fuel Nats’ historic rally

Down 9-0, Washington storms back for 14-12 victory

WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of their players-only meeting the previous day, the Nationals were hoping Thursday could represent something of a turning point to save this season from spiraling down even further. Perhaps, they could not have asked for a better way to do so than storming back from a nine-run deficit to pull off an improbable, and historic, 14-12 victory against the Marlins.

The largest comeback in Nationals history was made possible thanks to Trea Turner‘s career-high eight RBIs, matching the MLB record for most RBIs by a leadoff hitter. Turner hit his first career grand slam in the sixth inning to put the Nationals ahead for the first time in the game, sending the Nats’ dugout into a frenzy and inspiring a curtain call from the 24,314 fans at Nationals Park.

Turner stood on the dugout steps and pumped his fists during the curtain call for a moment the Nationals so desperately needed.

“I keep talking about the momentum,” Turner said. “I think that game was a huge momentum swing for us. If we can continue to ride that and play good baseball like we did — after maybe the first four innings or so — then I think we can beat anybody.”

Before beating the Marlins for the 12th consecutive time, the Nats had dropped a season-high five straight games, and their struggles in the past month left them a game under .500 at the start of the day and fading from contention. They held a players-only meeting Wednesday to reiterate that things needed to change. Then, the Marlins ambushed right-hander Jeremy Hellickson for nine runs (eight earned) in four innings.

Hellickson, who had been battling an illness all week, was not right from the start. After he gave up a run in the first inning, the Marlins punished him for six runs in the second inning, punctuated by a three-run homer from Martin Prado.

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By Jamal Collier

 

Trea Turner Hits For Nationals 3rd Cycle

Written by Chelsea Janes at Washington Post.com

When Trea Turner slid into third base, having just completed the third cycle in Washington Nationals history, he dusted himself off and looked around, hoping someone would verify the feat.

“Wait a second,” he said, though he was not sure third base coach Bobby Henley had heard him when he did not receive an answer. Not until Turner saw the visitors’ dugout clamoring for the baseball did he know for sure.

“That was kind of my confirmation that I actually did it,” Turner said. “I saw people ask for the ball and I saw people clapping at me.”

 Tuesday night’s win was, as Dusty Baker put it afterward, “Coors Field at its finest,” a topsy-turvy contest in which the Nationals scored the game’s first seven runs and surrendered the game’s final seven runs . Joe Ross failed to last five innings, but never trailed. The Nationals’ offense — with a new-look lineup that included Turner hitting second and Ryan Zimmerman batting cleanup between Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy — scored a season-high 15 runs. Turner scored four of them.

Turner was not constructed for nights like Tuesday, when he wore a fleece mask and his long sleeves billowed as he chugged around the bases four times. Forty-degree evenings with gusting winds are not a common occurrence in Florida, where Turner played his high school ball, nor at North Carolina State, where he emerged as an elite prospect.

Sixty six minutes passed as a chilly rain fell before he got his shot. After the rain delay, temperatures sat in the mid-40s and only fell from there, producing the kind of night that normally belongs to pitchers and not to hitters, who risk paralyzing their hands with bad contact and see well-hit balls fall short of their destination. Turner, who admitted he’s “a baby when it comes to the cold,” seemed unaffected.

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Dusty Baker Compares Trea Turner To Rickey Henderson

Written by Ken Rosenthal at FoxSports.com

Nationals manager Dusty Baker looks at Trea Turner and sees Rickey Henderson.

And to paraphrase Rickey, “Rickey hits leadoff. Rickey doesn’t hit second

A ridiculous comp? Perhaps. But Baker, who normally is not given to excessive praise, believes that Turner’s speed-power package could make him the most impactful leadoff man since Henderson.

So, on Monday night, the manager returned Turner to the leadoff spot, with Adam Eaton batting second. Turner, who returned from a hamstring injury Friday, hit second the previous two games.

Statistical analysts generally do not place much weight on a batting order, but the Nats’ choice actually is more complex than it appears.

The team, by batting Eaton first and Turner second, can avoid using three straight left-handed hitters in the 2-3-4 spots – Eaton, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.

Turner, a right-handed hitter, would break up the lefties if he bats second. The downside is that hitting him in front of Harper would limit his ability to run – and remember, Turner was 33-for-39 in stolen-base attempts last season in just 73 games.

The revival of Ryan Zimmerman could help alleviate the issue; Zimmerman, a right-handed hitter, twice batted cleanup over the weekend, between Harper and Murphy.

Then again, Murphy is still a better choice than Zimmerman at cleanup against right-handed pitchers, even if it leaves the Nats more susceptible to left-handed relievers (the best of whom, by the way, are all in the AL).

Dropping Eaton to the sixth or seventh spot is another option, giving the Nats speed near the bottom as well as at the top of the order. But such a move would take Eaton out of his comfort zone – 98 percent of his 2,350 career plate appearances have come in the first or second spots, 89 percent in the first.

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Nationals Call Up Trea Turner

Written by Jeff Todd  at MLB Trade Rumors.com

The Nationals will call up top position-player prospect Trea Turner, as the Talk Nats blog first reported on Twitter. He’ll join the club tomorrow, per MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (via Twitter), likely taking the active roster spot of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is going on paternity leave.

Given that Zimmerman will only miss a few days, it’s not yet clear how long Turner will be up. It could be that he’ll just fill in temporarily at second base, with Daniel Murphy shifting to first, as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier suggests on Twitter.

But it’s certainly possible that this represents the beginning of Turner’s first full trial in D.C., which could have important repercussions for this season and the future. The Nats have relied on a combination of Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew at shortstop. While that makes for a solid defensive pairing, the two have combined for an ugly .194/.281/.347 batting line on the year.

Turner, meanwhile, has improved upon the already-strong results he posted in his first attempt at Triple-A in 2015. He only managed nine hits in 44 plate appearances at the big league level in his brief call-up last year, but has put to rest any questions as to whether he’s due for another chance. Over 222 plate appearances at Syracuse in 2016, Turner owns a .310/.376/.472 batting line with three home runs and 17 steals.

The division-leading Nats aren’t exactly in need of a boost, as the club is off to a promising 33-and-21 start. But going to Turner now would allow the organization to get a firm idea of its middle infield mix in advance of the summer trade deadline. Were it not for the presence of Turner, the Nationals could well be considered a plausible buyer at the shortstop position over the next two months.

It’s important to note, too, that service time is no longer a compelling consideration for the team. After entering the season with 45 days on his ledger, Turner will not be able to tally a full season even if he remains active the rest of the way. That means that Washington can deploy him in the majors for all of this season while still controlling him through the 2022 campaign.

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