Martinez balancing lineup with righties, Wood lands on IL at Rochester

ATLANTA – The Nationals offense has averaged a little more than five runs per game over their last eight outings, breaking out of a slump in which they scored two or fewer runs in seven of 11 games.

In order for the Nationals to keep that up tonight, they’ll have to produce against left-hander Max Fried, who is coming off a complete game against the Cubs in which he allowed two runs (one earned), three hits, no walks and nine strikeouts.

Over his last eight starts against the Nats, Fried is 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA.

So manager Davey Martinez is stacking his lineup with right-handers to face the veteran southpaw, leaving some of his left-handed bats on the bench to possibly use late in the game.

“Yeah, definitely,” Martinez said during his pregame media session. “We could do a line switch here. Do something else late in the game, but tried to get as many righties in against Fried as possible. He's been good. He's coming off of a complete game and pitching well. So I tried to get some righties in there today.”

Joey Meneses replaces Joey Gallo at first base. The switch-hitting Keibert Ruiz is serving as the designated hitter while Riley Adams catches Jake Irvin. Jesse Winker stays in as the left fielder instead of Eddie Rosario. And Ildemaro Vargas replaces Luis García Jr. at second base.

With Lane Thomas’ return to the two hole yesterday, Martinez can balance out his lineup more, something he hasn’t been able to do too much while the right fielder was on the injured list and his lineup was left-handed-heavy.

“It's really nice to actually have Lane back,” Martinez said. “That helps a lot and stretches our lineup out a lot. But to be able to have Joey (Meneses) and some of these other guys. We got Ruiz in there, who is a switch-hitter. It's nice to get him some right-handed at-bats as well. So like I said, later in the game, we'll see how everything plays out. We have some lefties on the bench that can come in and pitch-hit.”

Martinez also gets both of his catchers in the lineup at same time. While that was something he liked to do in the second half of last season, it has been more difficult to do this year with the additions of Gallo, Winker and Rosario. But this matchup with Fried presented a good opportunity for both backstops to get some more at-bats.

“Riley matches up well against Fried. I want to get him a day in there,” the skipper said. “Also, Ruiz is starting to swing the bat a lot better. So I want to kind of keep him going. Like I said, it gives us flexibility. You know, I could maybe pinch-hit for Riley and just switch, put Ruiz in the game. But we'll see how it plays out.”

Gallo was an obvious choice to take a seat against Fried. The left-handed hitter is hitting .138 with a .568 OPS, six doubles, four home runs, seven RBIs, 16 walks and 58 strikeouts on the year. He’s 6-for-46 (.130) with 24 strikeouts in his last 50 plate appearances and only has three hits in 40 plate appearances against left-handers this year.

But just because Meneses is at first today, that doesn’t mean Martinez wants to platoon the two Joeys there and as the designated hitter.

“I don't necessarily want to platoon them,” Martinez said. “Gallo is going to play. We gotta get him going. I mean, we signed him knowing that he's a guy that's going to be streaky, that he’s gonna hit home runs, can take his walks. So I want to get him going. I'll find places to play Joey Meneses. DH him some. But we have flexibility, which is nice.”

* James Wood landed on the seven-day injured list at Triple-A Rochester today. The Nats’ top prospect has been sidelined with right hamstring tightness since Thursday, when he was removed from the Red Wings game in the fifth inning.

“He's got a little hammy issue,” Martinez said. “So they're gonna give him some time to get back and rehab it a little bit. So hopefully we get him back soon.”

Wood is slashing .355/.465/.596 with a 1.061 OPS, 13 doubles, nine home runs, 31 RBIs, 35 walks to 37 strikeouts and 10 stolen bases in 45 games.

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