First-year Nationals manager Dave Martinez, less than a full month into his first regular season as a Major League manager, already has had to go into the chemistry lab to try and make some things work better for his team.
So far, his first experiment is yielding some amazing results.
Bryce Harper was moved to the leadoff spot to jump-start the offense a few days ago, and it continues to yield dividends as he hit his 11th and 12th home runs of the season in Friday night’s 7-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington’s sixth consecutive victory to put them back over the .500 mark (17-16).
For most teams, an 11-16 start is a cause for concern to start the season, but for the Nationals, widely considered the prohibitive favorite to win the National League East, it’s even more of a shock to the system. From the shock begot the jolt that Martinez delivered to the lineup a few days back, when he put Harper in the leadoff spot, in the hopes that the slugger and former league MVP would be able to see more hittable pitches.
On the fourth pitch of the game that the Nationals’ offense saw on Friday, Harper launched a ball from Phillies starter Nick Pivetta over the left-field wall for his 11th home run of the season, part of a three-run first inning for Washington.
“It pumps everybody up,” Martinez said about Harper’s second career leadoff homerun. “It really does. Leadoff hitter hits a home run to lead off the game, that’s pretty nice.”
For good measure, Harper launched a 473-foot homer off of Pivetta as part of a four-run second inning for the Nationals, as Washington ran away and hid from Philadelphia early on its way to a 7-0 lead after two innings.
“He’s an animal out there,” said first baseman Matt Adams. “It’s fun to share the field with him.
Adams, who is batting in the No. 3 spot that was previously occupied by Harper, also has been a main beneficiary of Martinez’s experiment, as his second-inning homer marked the fourth long ball in as many days for the first baseman.
All of the offense was in support of Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who went five scoreless innings while striking out five.
Washington’s turnaround, once the lineup was turned around by Martinez, may be fleeting, but as long as Martinez continues to have success in the chemistry lab, let the experimentations continue in the nation’s capital.