Abrams looks to rebound from rough night at shortstop

SAN FRANCISCO – CJ Abrams had been in the midst of a sustained run of excellence in the field. He hadn’t committed an error in 12 games. He had converted all 10 chances he had in the field Monday night, including teaming up with Luis García to turn four double plays in the Nationals’ victory over the Giants.

And then came Tuesday night’s game at Oracle Park, in which Abrams struggled on the very first batted ball of the evening and never looked fully comfortable after that.

Abrams was charged with an error when he bounced a low throw to first on Austin Slater’s leadoff grounder to short. One inning later, he bounced another throw to first on Brett Wisely’s chopper up the middle and initially was charged with an error, though the official scorer later changed it to a hit because the ball took a weird hop off second base before Abrams could cleanly field it.

There were more shaky throws throughout the game, though, Abrams spared from being charged with any more errors thanks to Dominic Smith’s clean picks at first base.

It all made for a strange evening for the young Nationals shortstop, who just never seemed to be able to make a good, solid throw across the diamond.

“I think I need to use my legs a little more,” he said afterward. “The wind was going against me. Probably should’ve used my legs a little more to get it across.”

It was reminiscent in some ways of Abrams’ Opening Day struggles, when he was charged with three errors and at times looked spooked in the field. He overcame that inauspicious season debut, though, and has for the most part played an excellent shortstop since.

“Some of the balls that were hit to him, he stayed back a little bit today,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s got to come through the ball. Once he gathers himself, stay down, use his legs a little bit and then get it over there. I know he has no issues when he throws, really. Yesterday, we saw him throw out of a double play and fired the ball over there. Why? Because his legs were underneath him. We’ve got to do that consistently with him.”

It wasn’t all bad for Abrams on Tuesday. He made a leaping grab of J.D. Davis’ first-inning line drive to his right. And he nearly made a leaping catch of a line drive just over his head later in the game.

“I thought it was a base hit,” Martinez said of the play on the Davis liner. “But you know what, it doesn’t surprise me. He’s so quick over there at shortstop, and he gets to a lot of balls. Even that ball up the middle that he got to, I thought it was through and he was able to knock it down. His first step is really quick.”

The fact Abrams was able to brush off his earlier mistakes and still make above-average plays later in the game speaks to his natural physical gifts, not to mention his mindset in the field.

“You just have to forget about it,” he said of making errors. “I want every ball hit to me, so I have to show that.”

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