Fox tries not to think about 0-for-18 slump to begin career

Lucius Fox thought it about more in previous games than he did Wednesday night. Yes, he knew he remained hitless to begin his big league career. It’s tough not to see those three zeros in succession listed right next to his oversized visage on the scoreboard at Nationals Park every time he steps to the plate. But he didn’t feel as much pressure as he did previously, thanks to a recent conversation with manager Davey Martinez.

Martinez told Fox he, too, knew what it was like to wait a while to record his first career hit. As a rookie outfielder for the Cubs in 1986, he went 0-for-11 before finally getting on the board in his seventh game.

Fox couldn’t believe it.

“Before me and Davey had that conversation, it’s been on my mind quite a bit. Every at-bat, to be honest with you,” he said. “But talking with Davey has instilled confidence in me. Let the game come to you. Don’t chase the game. It made me more relaxed. I’ve had better at-bats and made better contact.”

Maybe so, but Fox still doesn’t have that elusive hit on his major league register. After an 0-for-4 night during Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Marlins, he’s now 0-for-18 overall.

His manager can sympathize.

“It lingers,” Martinez said. “It’s tough. But the thing about it is: Just control what you can control. Just try to put the ball in play, hit the ball hard and you’ll find a hole. Don’t start thinking about it. Don’t start chasing hits. The minute you start chasing hits, you start creating bad habits, you start swinging at the rosin bag when they throw it up there. Just be patient, do the little things, and the hit will come.”

He may not have a hit, but Fox does have a game-tying RBI and an indelible moment to remember from 2 1/2 weeks ago. His perfectly executed safety squeeze against the Mets helped spark a late rally and ultimately lift the Nationals to their first victory of the season.

But there haven’t been any real memorable moments since, aside from his viral moment of embarrassment Sunday when he vomited on the infield two pitches in the game and had to depart.

Fox was feeling back to normal Wednesday and got a chance to start at shortstop in place of struggling veteran Alcides Escobar. He desperately wanted to reach base and end the skid, but it didn’t happen. He wound up making the final out of the game, flying out to left while representing the winning run.

Fox especially wanted to come through there because he would have notched his first big league hit while playing in the same game as his close friend and fellow Bahamas native Jazz Chisholm Jr. They’re two of only nine major leaguers ever to come out of the Bahamas, the first to play in a game against each other since 1961.

“To do it with Jazz, it means a lot,” Fox said. “We spoke about this moment when we were kids, from when we first started playing baseball and we first signed. We both wanted to make it so bad.”

Chisholm has blossomed into one of the Marlins’ best young players. Fox doesn’t have the same pedigree, and it could be a few days before he gets another opportunity to bat and snap his 0-fer, with Alcides Escobar expected to start at shortstop again in Thursday’s series finale against Miami.

The longer it goes, the more pressure he may feel. Unless he can continue to heed the advice of his manager.

“Just go out there, relax and have fun,” Martinez said. "The biggest thing I always tell him is: Play defense. And when you get on base, run the bases well. Do all the little things and focus on something else besides just trying to get a hit. He’s been great. … He definitely works his tail off to get better, and I love him for that.”

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