Since Luis García was promoted at the start of June, it has been undeniable that the Washington Nationals shortstop belongs in the big leagues based on his performance at the plate. That’s why, despite Manager Dave Martinez’s hesitation, he has moved García further and further up the batting order.
“I just try to stay quiet and just slow myself down,” García said through an interpreter. “I have quick hands, so I let them do the work.”
To open the sixth, his double off the out-of-town scoreboard in right field came off the bat at 108.4 mph and gave Washington (28-48) signs of life. Keibert Ruiz and Yadiel Hernandez then hit groundballs to second baseman Hoy Park, who was shifted into the outfield and had no chance of throwing out García at home on the second grounder. That cut the Nationals’ deficit to 2-1.
The 22-year-old doubled again to open the eighth, this time slapping a 104-mph rope over the left fielder’s head to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Two outs later, third baseman Maikel Franco — who Martinez said brings energy to the dugout — blasted a two-run homer into the visitors’ bullpen to put the Nationals ahead for good.
“That’s Maikey,” Franco said of his energy. “That’s what I have to do. Just coming in every single day and bringing in energy for everybody, for my team.”
Kyle Finnegan entered to close the game. Josh VanMeter doubled to right with one out on a flyball that Juan Soto jogged to, apparently assuming it would go foul, before it bounced inside the line. Finnegan retired the next two batters to earn his first save.
The Nationals left nine runners on base in the first seven innings. In the third, Nelson Cruz grounded out with the bases loaded. (Cruz fouled a ball off his left ankle in the fifth and went to the ground; Martinez said after the game he was still sore.) In the fourth, Washington had runners on second and third with one out but got nothing out of it.
But when García produced, his team followed. He added a fourth-inning single to finish 3 for 4, boosting his batting average to an impressive .337 in 25 games.
García’s defense still needs work — that’s why he started the season at Class AAA Rochester, after all. And he has shown his youth at the plate, too, trying to pull the ball and throwing off his approach. But he has been a constant source of offense, leading the way with 33 hits this month.
“I’ve been messing around with him, as we all know — hitting him fifth, hitting him seventh,” Martinez said. “I thought today … he’d be a good guy to get up there fifth. And it worked out.”
Was Erick Fedde efficient? No, the Nationals right-hander lasted just five innings, tossing 100 pitches and often falling into hitter’s counts. His night ended quickly even though he allowed just two runs, three hits and two walks.
Martinez wanted Fedde to focus on putting batters away early, but he struggled to get ahead after a strong 15-pitch first inning that included two strikeouts on his curveball. In the second, Fedde walked Daniel Vogelbach on five pitches. After he got a fielder’s choice, Jack Suwinski doubled. VanMeter hit a sacrifice fly to put Pittsburgh (29-44) ahead, but Fedde struck out the next batter to strand Suwinski on third.
The next two innings weren’t any more efficient, but the Pirates couldn’t take advantage. In the fifth, Fedde faced Oneil Cruz for the third time. The Nationals showed a lot of respect to the rookie shortstop, with Soto and center fielder Lane Thomas positioning themselves on the warning track. But Cruz blasted a 3-1 pitch over both of them and into the right field seats to double the Pirates’ lead with his first home run of the season.
Fedde retired the next batter to finish five innings, but his most telling statistic was the breakdown of his pitches: He threw 100, but only 55 of them were for strikes.
“Walking off the field, I felt terrible,” Fedde said. “My stuff wasn’t great today, especially weirdly after the first inning because I felt so good ... but lucky enough to keep the team in it, and they made it pay off.”
Dave Martinez is going to the All-Star Game? Martinez said he was surprised that Atlanta Braves Manager Brian Snitker invited him to join the National League’s coaching staff with Los Angeles Dodgers counterpart Dave Roberts. Martinez had planned to head to Florida or to his farm for the break but joked that plans change.
“You’re amongst the best of the best at the game, and ... it’s definitely an honor to be there and see all these unbelievable players,” Martinez said. “And I get to mingle and pick people’s brains. So, for me, it’s a great experience.”
What were Monday’s roster moves? Sam Clay was called up to take the place of fellow left-hander Francisco Perez, who was sent to Rochester. Clay is the only left-hander in the bullpen. Perez allowed three runs without recording an out in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 6-4 win at the Texas Rangers, boosting his ERA to 7.27 and forcing Martinez to use closer Tanner Rainey.
Righty Aníbal Sánchez (cervical nerve impingement in his neck) and lefty Josh Rogers (left shoulder impingement) will join Perez with Rochester for rehab assignments. Sánchez is scheduled to pitch four innings or around 60 pitches Tuesday, and Rogers is slated to have the same limit when he pitches again. The plan is for both to be stretched out before returning to the majors.
Sánchez, 38, has not pitched in the majors since 2020. Rogers, 27, got into 16 games, making three starts, before he was sidelined.