Turner, adjusting to new role, picks up first hit

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Trea Turner had some conflicting feelings after he crossed first base in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday night at Nationals Park. The rookie infielder had just beaten out a slow ground ball to second base for what potentially was his Major League hit — pending the decision of the official scorer.

“I thought I was out. Then I was hoping they gave me an error a little bit, but then I was hoping for the hit,” he said. “Obviously, your first one, you want it to be special or legit, whatever you want to call it, a line drive somewhere, a base hit. I was hoping for both sides a little bit, but obviously it’s nice to get that out of the way … I’ll take it.”

After a long pause, the scorer made his decision: single. It may have been a generous call, given that Braves second baseman Jace Peterson double-clutched before throwing to first baseman Nick Swisher, who dropped the ball. But Turner, running at a blazing top speed of 21.187 mph, according to Statcast, forced the issue.  

And while the hit might not have been pretty, Turner wasn’t going to complain, almost two weeks after his debut, and in his 10th career at-bat. The ball sat in his locker, though Turner planned to give it to his parents for safe keeping.

“You take what’s given to you and can’t complain with any bloop hits, because you’re going to line out a lot,” Turner said. “That’s what I figured out in Triple-A a little bit. I think I started out 0-for-15 or 0-for-18 or something, hit a few line drives, hit a few soft ones and just had those fall in. So when you get a hit, you just take it.”

Indeed, Turner generally been a slow starter. He went 0-for-10 in his first three games for the Padres’ Double-A San Antonio affiliate to begin the year. After a brief stint at Double-A Harrisburg following his move to the Nats organization, he climbed to Triple-A Syracuse and went 0-for-17 over his first five games. He still ended up batting better than .300 at all three of those stops. 

Since getting called up on Aug. 21, Turner had been 0-for-9, though he arguably should have had an infield single in his debut on another close play at first. But this is a different challenge for the 22-year-old top prospect, not only because it’s the big leagues, but also because he is having to adjust to coming off the bench. All eight of his appearances have come as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or defensive replacement.

“I’ve been seeing it good, I just feel like I haven’t always been on time with the pitches and haven’t got in a rhythm like I would normally getting four or five at-bats every day,” Turner said. “So it’s tough, but you’ve got to battle.”

He’s been leaning on another rookie, albeit a much older one, in Clint Robinson. Like Turner, Robinson has been forced to adapt to a bench roles for much of this season, racking up 39 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

“He hangs out with me in the dugout a little bit and has been asking questions, kind of picking my brain a little bit about what I’ve learned this year,” Robinson said. “He knows I’m new to it just like he is. But I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. He’s going to be a good player for a long time.”

September 2: Nationals @ Cardinals

Teams: Washington Nationals (66-65, -6.5 in NL East), St. Louis Cardinals (86-46, +6.0 in NL Central)

Streaks: Nationals: L2, Cardinals: W3

First pitch: 8:15 pm ET

Watch & Listen: MASN 2, ESPN / 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Jayson Werth LF, Anthony Rendon 2B, Bryce Harper RF, Ryan Zimmerman 1B, Yunel Escobar 3B, Ian Desmond SS, Wilson Ramos C, Michael Taylor CF, Max Scherzer RHP

STL Lineup:  Matt Carpenter 3B, Stephen Piscotty LF, Jason Heyward RF, Jhonny Peralta SS, Brandon Moss 1B, Tommy Pham CF, Kolten Wong, 2B, Tony Cruz C, Tyler Lyons LHP

Transactions: The Nationals recalled LHP Matt Grace and RHP Rafael Martin from Triple-A Syracuse.

Stay informed: 

  • For Nats’ bullpen, loss to Cards twice as tough (link)
  • Nats erupt early, only to drop heartbreaker (link)
  • Nats call up catching prospect Severino (link)
  • Wednesday’s preview vs. St. Louis (link)

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

September 1: Nationals @ Cardinals

Teams: Washington Nationals (66-64, -6.5 in NL East), St. Louis Cardinals (85-46, +5.0 in NL Central)

Streaks: Nationals: L1, Cardinals: W2

First pitch: 8:15 pm ET

Watch & Listen: MASN 2 / 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Jayson Werth LF, Anthony Rendon 2B, Bryce Harper RF, Ryan Zimmerman 1B, Yunel Escobar 3B, Ian Desmond SS, Wilson Ramos (C), Michael Taylor CF, Joe Ross RHP

STL Lineup:  Matt Carpenter 3B, Stephen Piscotty RF, Jhonny Peralta SS, Jason Heyward CF, Yadier Molina C, Kolten Wong 2B, Mark Reynolds 1B, Brandon Moss LF, Marco Gonzalez LHP

Transactions: None.

Stay informed: 

  • Bullpen inconsistencies stunting Nats’ progress (link)
  • Difo among Nationals headed to Arizona Fall League (link)
  • Zim’s big night overshadowed in setback (link)

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

August 31: Nationals @ St. Louis

Teams: Washington Nationals (66-63, -5.5 in NL East), St. Louis Cardinals (84-46, +4.5 in NL Central)

Streaks: Nationals: W2, Cardinals: W1

First pitch: 8:15 pm ET

Watch & Listen: MASN 2 / 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Jayson Werth LF, Anthony Rendon 2B, Bryce Harper RF, Ryan Zimmerman 1B, Yunel Escobar 3B, Ian Desmond SS, Jose Lobaton, Michael Taylor CF, Gio Gonzalez LHP

STL Lineup:  Matt Carpenter 3B, Stephen Piscotty RF, Jhonny Peralta SS, Jason Heyward CF, Yadier Molina C, Kolten Wong 2B, Mark Reynolds 1B, Brandon Moss LF, John Lackey RHP

Transactions: None.

Stay informed: 

  • Nats rally to take rubber game from Marlins  (link)
  • Back tightness cuts Strasburg’s outing short (link)
  • Monday’s preview vs. Cardinals (link)

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

Michael Taylor, back in the lineup and contributing

by Jacob Emert | MLB.com

WASHINGTON — Michael Taylor made his first start on Sunday since crashing into the center-field wall and suffering a right knee contusion on Thursday.

Taylor was 2-for-4 in Sunday’s 7-4 win over the Marlins, but the most promising sign came in the top of the sixth inning, when Taylor went full speed toward the wall again to reel in a Jeff Mathis deep fly ball.

“Just still trying to be aggressive,” Taylor said. “I had a pretty good idea where the wall was. This one was a little shorter, so the wall didn’t beat me up this time.”

It was Taylor’s 24th multi-hit game this season, and he figures for several more with center fielder Denard Span missing the rest of the season.

“Mikey’s been huge all year,” Clint Robinson said. “Mikey’s going to continue to go out and be our every day center fielder I assume. He’s been huge for this team. He’s been having a really good rookie season, I think. He’s very important to us and he’s a heck of a player.”

August 30: Marlins @ Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (65-63, -5.5 in NL East), Miami Marlins (52-78, -19.5 in NL East)

Streaks: Nationals: W1, Marlins: L1

First pitch: 1:35 pm ET

Watch & Listen: MASN / 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Jayson Werth LF, Anthony Rendon 3B, Bryce Harper RF, Ryan Zimmerman 1B, Ian Desmond SS, Wilson Ramos C, Danny Espinosa 2B, Michael Taylor CF, Stephen Strasburg RHP

MIA Lineup:  Dee Gordon 2B, Ichiro Suzuki RF, Martin Prado 3B, Justin Bour 1B, Derek Dietrich LF, Marcell Ozuna CF, Adeiny Hechavarria SS, Jeff Mathis C, Brad Hand LHP

Transactions: None.

Stay informed: 

  • Three homers help Nationals beat Marlins, gain game (link)
  • Aggressive Nats pick up slack for Harper vs. Koehler (link)
  • Sunday’s preview vs. Marlins (link)

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

Nats gain ground on Mets

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — By defeating the Marlins, 5-1, on Saturday night, the Nationals are 5 1/2 games behind the Mets, who lost to the Red Sox, 3-1, earlier in the day. It was the first time in 11 days Washington gained ground on New York in the National League East race.

Some of the Nats are denying that they are not paying attention to what the Mets are doing. But first baseman/outfielder Clint Robinson has his eyes on the Mets.

“I don’t know about everybody else, but I do,” Robinson said. “That’s who were chasing in the playoff race. If I see that they lost and it’s a chance for us to gain a game, I want that as badly as I do any other win. We saw it and it was a good opportunity for us to gain a game.”

Manager Matt Williams said the Nationals understand they have to win games, but can’t control anything else.

“If we win, we have an opportunity to [gain ground],” Williams said. “If we don’t, then we don’t. Tomorrow is another opportunity. So if we can win that one, we can have that same chance tomorrow as well.”

Span: ‘It was a tough decision trying to come back and also shutting it down.’

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Nationals center fielder Denard Span knew something was wrong with his left hip after he saw the back specialist a few weeks ago. Span would later learn that he had a torn labrum in the hip and will have surgery Tuesday to repair it.

Span said every time he had back spasms, he would feel pain in the hip, but the pain in the hip felt secondary to the back spasms. But once he received a cortisone shot for his back, that’s when Span knew something was wrong with the hip.

When Span returned to the Nationals earlier this week, he said he didn’t feel that great at all.

“After the second game [against the Padres], I went home,” Span said. “I wasn’t feeling good. I had two hits. Normally, when I get two hits, I’m in an upbeat mood. I just wasn’t. So I talked to my mom and I thought [having surgery] was best for my future. I need to go ahead and get myself fixed so I can be myself on the field.”

Span said he had a terrible eight months. He had hernia and abdominal surgery before the regular season started. He hasn’t fully recovered from the abdominal surgery. Then he had back spasms that put him on the disabled list on July 7th.

“It’s been a domino effect — bad timing, bad luck,” Span said. “It’s just frustrating, but I’m trying to stay positive as much as possible and try to trust in God’s plan that I will overcome this. It’s just another chapter in my book. It’s all I can do right now.”

Span’s latest injury comes at a bad time. He is a free agent after the season and the Nationals are still in the race to win the National League East title.

“It was a tough decision trying to come back and also shutting it down,” Span said. “All around, it’s tough. I worked my butt off to get to this point. I have to wait and get myself better. I’m fine with waiting.”

Span has been a tremendous leadoff hitter with the Nats, hitting .292 with a .345 on-base percentage in three years with the club. Span believes the trade that sent him from the Twins to the Nationals for right-hander Alex Meyer after the 2012 season resurrected his career. Span went so far as to say the Nationals elevated his game.

“I enjoyed my three years here. … This trade was probably the best thing for me at the time. I learned a lot here from the coaching staff, my teammates. It’s been a good time.”

Nationals Mailbag: August 29

Q: by you. A: by Jacob Emert.

I’m not big on introductions. Let’s get right to it.

Q:  Do you think they overestimated the strength of their pitching, thinking it would pull them through slumps? – @krimar

A: I think the Nationals thought they had a really good pitching staff, which is what we all thought. I still think they do. On paper, given previous years’ success, it was a reasonable presumption. The fact that it hasn’t lived up to all the hype isn’t exactly a huge surprise, as 1. reality rarely meets hype and 2. overloaded pitching staffs with several “aces” have frequently underperformed historically.

Q:  What do you plan to do during the playoffs? – @NathanWarters

A: Well, since they sit 6.5 games back, I was thinking of taking some art classes.

Q: Do you think the Nats show Desmond and Williams the door this offseason? – jay_cheung94

A: Show them the door? No. I think Williams will be back. He was GM Mike Rizzo’s hand-picked manager, and whatever your opinions of him may be, the amount that this team has underperformed does not fall on his shoulders. As for Desmond, more on that in a second.

Q:  How have the Nats been able to keep their waiver moves secret this year? – @SwanniOnTV

A: They’re secret for every team. The waiver process as a whole is designed to be kept away from public consumption.

Q: What’s your favorite meal in the press box? – @benbrown04

A: Tonight’s barbecue was pretty strong, but a well-made cheesesteak is hard to beat.

Q: Given the current situation who do you fire first and who do DFA and who do you promote and what FA next year do they chase – @CBJinDC

A: Believe it or not, my role as an associate reporter for MLB.com does not give me the authority to fire anybody. As far as the free agent for 2016, my man Bill Ladson thinks Matt Wieters is a real possibility. I tend to agree.

Q: I would want to know what the schedule is looking like for next year? – @DArkMEATHOOK

A: The actual schedule? Like who they play? MLB announces it in early September, but I can tell you they will play every NL East team 19 times. I have a pretty strong feeling about that.

Q: Can u run down the list of pending FAs & discuss who is likely to get a QO & who isn’t? – @34sPompadour

A: Sure can. Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Doug Fister. Of that list, I think Span is offered a qualifying offer. Given the uncertainty with his back, I could see it as a good possibility for both parties. Other than that, I think Desmond and Zimmerman will both be offered a QO, but both will take bigger deals elsewhere. I also think the Nationals and Doug Fister part ways after this season.

Q: When does and how does someone press the PANIC button in #Nats clubhouse? – @TheRallyMullet

A: If such a button exists, the Nationals keep it pretty well hidden. I’m in the clubhouse every day and I haven’t seen one. As for how, I imagine it’s one of those “Deal Or No Deal” things where you have to flip open a case to ensure it’s not pressed by accident.

August 29: Marlins @ Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (64-63, -6.5 in NL East), Miami Marlins (52-77, -19.5 in NL East)

Streaks: Nationals: L1, Marlins: W1

First pitch: 7:05 pm ET

Watch & Listen: MASN / 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Jayson Werth (RF), Anthony Rendon (3B), Bryce Harper (CF), Ryan Zimmerman (1B), Clint Robinson (LF) Ian Desmond (SS), Wilson Ramos (C), Danny Espinosa (2B), Jordan Zimmermann (RHP)

MIA Lineup:  TBA.

Transactions: None.

Stay informed: 

  • Nats can’t rally after Scherzer struggles early (link)
  • Turner impresses in first MLB start — at second base (link)
  • Velocity OK, is location Scherzer’s problem (link)
  • Span to undergo season-ending hip surgery (link)
  • Saturday’s preview vs. Marlins (link)

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

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