Abrams, Lipscomb, Nuñez make history with stat lines

CINCINNATI – The Nationals didn’t do a lot of things well in Thursday’s season-opening loss to the Reds, but high on the list was their lack of patience at the plate, leading to zero walks during the 8-2 loss.

They flipped the script Saturday, taking advantage of Hunter Greene’s wildness to draw four walks off the Cincinnati starter, then another two off closer Alexis Diaz during their ninth-inning rally to win 7-6.

Davey Martinez hopes the message sunk in for his players.

“If we accept our walks and not chase, we’ll hit the ball hard,” the manager said. “That’s what we’ve got to do always. We talked a lot about it this spring, we worked on it. These guys have to understand that taking your walks, good things happen. We saw that yesterday with CJ.”

Indeed, CJ Abrams was the biggest beneficiary of all of plate discipline. The 23-year-old shortstop drew three walks during the game, immediately stealing second base after each of them and ultimately scoring three runs.

It was only the second three-walk game of Abrams’ career and represented 9.4 percent of his total from the entire 2023 season, when he only walked 32 times.

How did the Nationals get Abrams to buy into a more patient mindset?

“Can I say bribe? No, no, no, I didn’t,” Martinez said with a laugh. “It’s just a conversation. A conversation about what kind of player he can be. I always talk to him about what kind of player he can be. And when he starts to establish that he can take pitches and get on base, he’ll start to get a lot more balls in the zone, which will be good for him, too.”

The key for Abrams: Don’t think of a walk as counting as only one base reached.

“Davey tells me if I walk, it’s a double,” he said. “Try to get on there for the team and score runs.”

Which is exactly what Abrams did Saturday. He became the 23rd player in major league history with three walks, three steals and three runs scored in a game, the first since the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen in 2009. And Abrams is the first player in history to do all that and also triple in a game.

* The Nationals stole five bases in total Saturday, and the two swiped by guys not named Abrams were notable in their own right.

Trey Lipscomb, making his major league debut, singled and stole second in the top of the third. Nasim Nuñez then made his major league debut in the top of the ninth, pinch-running for Joey Meneses. And when the Rule 5 draft pick stole second, he created some history in the process: This was only the third time in major league history two players stole a base in the same debut game.

Nuñez had the added benefit of scoring the game-winning run a few batters later when he scampered home on Eddie Rosario’s sacrifice fly.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know I was the go-ahead run,” he said. “It was just doing what I needed to do. Every time I get on base, I look to score. So it was just another run to me at that point. And then I realized it was the go-ahead run, and I was like: That’s pretty cool!”

* Keibert Ruiz is starting again today, giving him three straight games behind the plate to begin the season (albeit with a day off for the team in the middle of this stretch). Martinez said he had no hesitation about using his No. 1 catcher again, but noted backup Riley Adams is likely to get the nod at least once during the upcoming series against the Pirates, who have left-handers Marco Gonzales and Martin Perez scheduled to start Monday and Thursday, respectively.

“He’s fine. He looks good,” Martinez said of Ruiz, who started 116 games behind the plate last season. “He’s worked really hard this spring to get himself ready. I hate to look ahead, because I want to go 1-0 today. But looking at the Pirates series, and I definitely want to get Riley in there one of those games.”

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