Trea Turner entered last night’s rout in seventh inning, taking over at shortstop with the Nationals leading by 13 runs at the time. Since making his highly anticipated major league debut on Aug. 21, the 22-year-old was hitless in nine at-bats.
With one out in the bottom of the frame, the speedy Turner raced down the first base line after slapping a bouncing ball to the right side. Braves second baseman Jace Peterson fielded the ball but struggled to get it out of his glove, and when he unleashed his rushed throw, first baseman Nick Swisher couldn’t handle it as Turner flew past the bag safely.
The Nationals dugout didn’t know if they should save the ball. The scoreboard blinked single but a hit was not added for several moments as the official scorer contemplated whether to charge Pederson with an error while watching numerous replays. After a few minutes, it was ruled a single as Turner picked up his first big league hit.
“I thought I was out,” Turner said. “I was hoping they gave me an error a little bit, then I was hoping for the hit. Obviously, your first one you want to be special or legit, whatever you want to call it. A line drive somewhere or a base hit. I was hoping for both sides a little bit. Obviously, it’s nice to get it out of the way a little bit and I’ll take it.
“It took me a little while. It’s nice to get it off your back and not have to worry about it. Just continue forward and try to get better and get used to whatever role is asked of me.”
Turner heard plenty of ribbing from his teammates on the controversial knock, including from last night’s starter Jordan Zimmermann.
“We’ll have to see if it’s going to be official in a couple of days,” Zimmermann joked.
“That’s how it works,” said Turner, who picked up his first stolen base on Tuesday. “It’s kinda easy to give each other a tough time in a lot of different situations and we have fun with it. So, it was nice.”
Turner is expected to be the Nationals’ long-time answer at shortstop, especially with veteran Ian Desmond set to become a free agent at the end of the season. But for now, most of Turner’s action will come as a late defensive replacement, pinch-runner or pinch-hitter. He’s learning to adapt to infrequent at-bats.
“It’s different,” Turner said. “I saw the ball a lot better than I thought I would. Usually, coming off the bench, I feel like - not look like a blur or anything like that - but a little tougher to see. I’ve been seeing it good. I just feel like I always haven’t been on time with the pitches and gotten in a rhythm that I would normally have seeing three, four, five at-bats every day. It’s tough but you’ve got to battle. Just see pitches and when they give you something to hit, be aggressive.”
Turner has leaned on teammate Clint Robinson for advice on pinch-hitting. Robinson is also a rookie, but a bit more seasoned at age 30.
“He hangs out with me in the dugout a little bit and asks questions, kind of picking my brain about what I’ve learned this year,” said Robinson, who’s hitting .269 with seven homers and 29 RBIs. “He knows I’m new to it just like he is. But I have nothing but good things to say about him. He’s going to be a good player for a long time.”
As far as the ball from his first hit, “(I’ll) probably give it to my parents so I don’t lose it,” Turner said. “But I’m sure they’ll want it and it’ll be safe over there so I won’t complain with that.”
“He’s going to have plenty in his career, that’s for sure,” Zimmermann said.