Adams' clutch homer a good sign after hamate injury

The concern with players who suffer hamate injuries is always a lack of power when they return. So the Nationals were very happy to see Riley Adams hammer a game-tying, two-run home run in the seventh inning of yesterday’s home opening loss to the Pirates.

With the Nats down 3-1 and Ildemaro Vargas at first base after grinding out his at-bat for a single, Adams saw a low-and-in, 93-mph fastball from Pirates right-handed reliever Roansy Contreras. And what he did with that second pitch showed he recovered from last year’s fractured left hamate bone nicely.

Adams crushed the ball 427 feet into the bleachers behind the visiting bullpen in left-center field. The ball was hit 109 mph off his bat to give the catcher his first longball of the young season and the Nats a fighting chance against the Bucs.

“It definitely felt nice, especially in that moment being able to get us back in the ballgame and try to get a little momentum going into the last part,” Adams said after the 8-4 defeat. “I wasn't trying to do too much. Just trying to help the team a little bit there.”

The 427-foot blast became the longest homer of his career, 14 feet further than his previous longest homer hit last year.

“Bomb,” said manager Davey Martinez. “I always talk with him about being short to the ball. He was a little long in his couple of at-bats. I went up to him and said, 'Hey, you gotta stay short and try to hit the ball out front.' And he got a hold of one. It was awesome.”

“I'm not trying to hit it any farther or do anything special,” Adams said sheepishly when informed it was his longest longball. “I'm just trying to make contact. … We're just trying to shorten things up and make sure that I can get back to just making contact. Trying to keep it simple.”

Adams had a strong start to last season to give the Nats a solid 1-2 punch behind the plate. From April 1 through June 4, he hit .316 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, six RBIs, five walks and three runs scored in 11 games.

His production gave Martinez the idea of putting him in the lineup more often against left-handers alongside Keibert Ruiz, whose bat would stay as the designated hitter while he wasn’t crouched behind the plate as much. Martinez carried over that idea into this year starting Adams behind the plate and Ruiz as the DH yesterday against lefty Marco Gonzales.

The matchups against lefties worked, as Adams finished the 2023 season with a .333/.395/.565 slash line, seven doubles, three homers, 12 RBIs and seven walks against left-handers.

But his most productive major league season was cut short on Sept. 6 when he broke his left hamate bone on a swing against the Mets.

Adams reported to camp with no restrictions. The only concern was about the slugger’s power, even though he managed two doubles and one homer in Grapefruit League play.

“That's a really good sign,” Martinez said. “I mean, hey, we're gonna need his bat. He hits lefties really well, so the fact that he did that today was awesome.”

Getting that first homer – and a moonshot at that – in his first game action of the 2024 season was an especially good sign.

“It felt good to get that one,” Adams said. “I felt good about my wrist the whole time, even during spring. So there haven’t been any issues there. It obviously feels nice to hit a ball hard and have a positive result. So yeah, just trying to build on that for the future.”

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