Abrams' stardom continues to mature in leadoff spot

PITTSBURGH – CJ Abrams added another milestone to his budding stardom last night.

With the Nationals needing to shake off a rough 2-7 homestand, Abrams hit two home runs to help lead his team to a 6-2 victory over the Pirates, their first series-opening win in their last five attempts.

Abrams’ two-run shot gave the Nats a 2-0 lead in the third, the first time they’ve scored first in a game since Aug. 29 in Toronto. Then his solo homer in the seventh, his 18th of the season, gave the 22-year-old the first multi-homer game of his young career.

“Just more comfortable up there I'd say,” Abrams said. “Getting my pitch, less antsy, anxious swinging at everything. If I can stay with that approach, I'll be good.”

The Nationals have always believed Abrams would be good. Now, with his power numbers improving, they believe he can be a star.

“If you watch him take batting practice, it's in there. It's in there,” manager Davey Martinez said of Abrams’ power. “Now it's transforming in the game. Reason being, like I said, he's giving himself a chance to hit every pitch hard. Now I always said, when he really learns how to shrink the strike zone, he's gonna be an All-Star. He's gonna be something else. So he's done well.”

Since moving to the leadoff spot full-time on July 7 and after his two-homer performance last night, Abrams is slashing .275/.333/.472/.805 with six doubles, two triples, 11 homers, 40 runs, 23 RBIs, 14 walks and 30 stolen bases in 55 games. That would put him on pace for 32 homers, 88 stolen bases and 118 runs scored over a 162-game season.

“Just keep going,” Abrams said. “Like I said, day by day. I just want to finish strong and let things take care of itself.”

“He's been awesome,” Martinez said. “And I think a lot of it was when I gave him the responsibility to lead off. We've talked about that, right. That was big for him. I just asked him if he thinks he could do it. And he said yeah. And he's done it. So, I'm proud of the way he goes about his business. His routine has been way better. He's getting himself ready to play every day, he's taking care of his body, and we see what the difference that makes.”

The other difference noticeable in Abrams is his maturity over the course of the season. His teammates are very impressed with the way they’ve seen the young shortstop grow.

“From the beginning of the season to now, just to see the growth of what he's done. He's going to be a special player for a long time,” Patrick Corbin said. “Had minimal at-bats in the minors. Just to see him defensively, I think, has been really impressive, has saved a bunch of runs for us pitchers. And then obviously his bat. I think ever since he went to the leadoff position, you just see the confidence in him. I think on both sides of the ball it's been there and in his baserunning as well. Overall, he can do it all and it's fun to watch him play.”

“Yeah, it's fun. Just watching him grow as a player is fun,” Dominic Smith said. “You see him go through little struggles, but he sticks with it, and he just shows his maturity, man. And today, I mean, like I said, to come from that Dodgers series: We go as he goes. I mean, he's at the top of the lineup and for him to do what he did, that just shows how amazing he is as a player. And that's why we love him here. I'm sure he's going to look forward to continuing to be doing this over the next 10-15 years.”

And that growth isn’t just at the leadoff spot or at shortstop. They’re noticing it in all aspects of Abrams’ game.

“Everywhere. All over the place,” Smith said. “He doesn't put any limitations on himself, and he works extremely hard. He wants to be great on defense, he also wants to win a Gold Glove. And at the same time, he also wants to win a Silver Slugger and MVP, too. So, you can just see him work every day to just be that complete player. I think that's what's exciting. When you're 22 years old, you don't really see that maturity. You just see guys kind of learning. But he's also learning and applying, so that's really special.”

The Nats know Abrams is going to be special. But Abrams isn’t focused on himself. He believes the Nats can be special. And soon.

“I'm just getting better every day,” Abrams said. “I'm taking it day by day. We're all getting better, so I think we're gonna be good soon.”

Game 145 lineups: Nats at Pirates
Corbin's slider, Abrams' power lead Nats to victor...

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