On the Eaton-Turner-Soto lineup, Corbin’s start and more

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Thoughts, observations and quotes from the Nationals’ 8-4 victory over the Braves today ...

* Though he has been touting the Trea Turner-Adam Eaton 1-2 combo atop his lineup for the last week-plus, Davey Martinez has flip-flopped the duo in each of the last two games they’ve started. And today offered some evidence of the benefits of that arrangement.

adam-eaton-close-white.jpgEaton led off the game drawing a walk, then moments later coasted around the bases on Turner’s two-run homer to left. And when Juan Soto followed that with a towering homer to right off Kevin Gausman, the Nationals had themselves three runs after only three batters in the first inning.

Might that kind of showing make Martinez think about sticking with this particular lineup?

“It definitely makes me think about it,” he said. “Like I’ve said, we’re not set in stone either way. But I like the way it worked out today. We’ll see what transpires. I’m going to go back and forth and get a feel for how we want to do things.”

The advantage to leading off Turner: It frees him up to steal more bases with Eaton at the plate, and Eaton is better at making contact to move Turner up.

The advantage to leading off Eaton: He reaches base at a higher clip, Turner has the ability to drive him in, and it allows Soto to bat third (instead of fourth) and have Anthony Rendon protecting him (instead of Ryan Zimmerman).

There isn’t necessarily one right answer to this question, but it does create a legitimate dilemma for Martinez as he prepares his daily lineup card.

* Patrick Corbin had a shaky first inning, giving up a run via an infield single, a double ripped down the third base line and a walk. The left-hander needed 28 pitches to complete the frame, causing some concern. But he bounced right back and retired the side in the second inning on only seven pitches, and that alleviated some of the concerns.

Corbin gave up two more runs before his day was complete after the fourth inning, but his defense didn’t help much. Eaton got twisted around on Ronald Acuña Jr.’s deep drive to right field in the third, playing it into an RBI triple. And a Zimmerman throwing error set the stage for the other run to eventually score in the fourth.

All told, Corbin saw some room for improvement.

“I’ve just got to get ahead of guys a little better,” he said. “I missed a couple pitches, gave up some extra-base hits. But other than that, I thought I made some good pitches. I threw a bunch more changeups as well. Just getting stronger with each outing. I thought the ball was coming out better this one.”

As for that shaky first inning, Martinez asked the lefty about it in the dugout.

“And he says it’s not uncommon,” the manager said. “He sometimes does that and then he works through and settles down. I told him: ‘Well, let’s figure out whether we need to do something in the bullpen before the first inning, or maybe mix in some new pitches, do something to get you through that first inning comfortable.”

Check back for Corbin’s next start to see if anything changes in the first inning.

* Sean Doolittle replaced Corbin for the fifth inning and faced the minimum on only 10 pitches, using a 6-4-3 double play to erase a leadoff single by Acuña. Trevor Rosenthal followed in the sixth and allowed an unearned run. Some watching the game may have noticed his velocity appeared to be down (in the low 90s instead of its usual high-90s register) but that was a result of him throwing more two-seam fastballs than four-seamers. He did top out at 97 mph with his four-seamer, so no cause for alarm there.

“I think he was trying a little bit more two-seamers,” Martinez said. “And his fastball, he was throwing 97. I like where he’s at. He got ground balls today, which is really nice.”

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