Abrams gets planned day off, Smith's bat starting to come around

SAN FRANCISCO – Given the way things went for him Tuesday night, it would be natural to wonder if CJ Abrams was given today off as a reaction to his shaky performance both at the plate and in the field. Davey Martinez insists that’s not the case and that Abrams was going to have the Nationals’ series finale against the Giants off no matter what.

“It was a planned day off for him,” Martinez said this morning. “Looking at the schedule, it gives us an opportunity to give him two days off. He’s been really playing well. For me, this is just an opportunity to get him off his feet. As I always say, if we need him for today’s game, he’s definitely going to be in there. But if he gets half of today, maybe all of today, and then tomorrow, he’ll be fresh to go on Friday.”

The Nationals are off Thursday following their red-eye flight home tonight. They’re scheduled to return to action Friday night in D.C. against the Mets.

Abrams had his shakiest game in the field in weeks Tuesday, committing an error on the first batter in the first inning, then making several more low throws through the remainder of the game. He also went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at the plate, stranding seven runners on base in the Nats’ 4-1 loss to San Francisco.

Ildemaro Vargas starts at shortstop in Abrams’ place, facing Giants left-hander Sean Manaea. Abrams, meanwhile, will spend the afternoon sitting alongside run prevention coordinator (and former big league infielder) Ricky Gutierrez in the dugout, with specific instructions.

“He’ll sit there and watch the game,” Martinez said. “Ricky is really good on the bench with those guys. He’ll be talking to him throughout the game. Watch the game and learn and try to get better, just by watching how other guys play.”

* After a rough start to his season, Dominic Smith is beginning to show signs of life at the plate.

Through his first 22 games, Smith was batting a paltry .221 with one extra-base hit, leading to a .542 OPS. Over his last 11 games, Smith has hit a much more robust .389, with one double and one homer, equating to a healthy .976 OPS.

“He’s using his legs,” Martinez said. “That’s something we talked to him early in the season (about). He wasn’t using his legs. He was getting out there a little bit. But now he’s staying down, he’s using his legs a lot better. He’s able to stay behind the ball, and is really starting to hit the ball hard to all fields.”

Smith was 3-for-3 with a walk in Tuesday’s loss and delivered the Nationals’ lone hit with a runner in scoring position. Like most everyone else on the roster, he’s still not hitting for much power, but Martinez is hoping there will be an uptick in that department now that his swing is in a better place.

“He’s started making harder contact,” the manager said. “It’s the beginning of getting out of any kind of funk, just to square balls up and hit them hard. Now all of a sudden, his pitch selection will get a lot better and he’ll start driving balls that he should be driving.”

* Patrick Corbin was sporting a noticeable bump on his left forearm today, the byproduct of the line drive that struck him in the fifth inning Tuesday night. But the veteran left-hander expressed confidence it’s not anything serious enough to prevent him from making his next start Monday against the Mets.

Corbin took a 100-mph comebacker off Mitch Haniger’s bat, raising his arm just in time to take the majority of the blow before the ball deflected off the left side of his face. He stayed in the game and recorded four more outs before departing at the end of the sixth.

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