Martinez sticking with pitcher eighth, Robles ninth (tied in 10th)

PHILADELPHIA - Davey Martinez has already been asked this question multiple times in the last week: Is he tempted to move Victor Robles out of the No. 9 spot in the Nationals lineup? And the manager's answer has remained consistent.

"Right now, no," Martinez said. "I like what he's doing in the nine-hole. We're 10 days in, and he's done really well. I want him to just play the game. And he's having fun. He's doing the little things that we're asking him to do. He's playing really good. We're OK. Our offense is doing well."

Robles-Runs-Hatless-Red-sidebar.jpgDespite his position at the bottom of the lineup, Robles enters tonight's game batting .276 with three doubles, two homers, four RBIs and a .969 OPS that ranks second among all the Nationals' regulars except for Anthony Rendon (1.412).

When Trea Turner broke his right index finger last week, the notion of moving Robles up in the batting order began to surface. But Martinez still sees a benefit to keeping the rookie where he is.

"The benefit of having Robles in the nine-hole, for me, is he's another leadoff hitter," the manager said. "And he's done that."

Robles' position leaves the pitcher batting eighth. And that seemed to have a negative impact on Monday night's 4-3 loss, when third base coach Bob Henley aggressively waved Ryan Zimmerman around on Kurt Suzuki's two-out base hit to right-center, knowing the Phillies would have just intentionally walked Wilmer Difo and gone after pitcher Aníbal Sánchez to get out of the jam.

Martinez, though, still sees the benefit of batting the pitcher eighth, for the effect it has on the guy hitting behind him.

"Just say we moved Robles up to eighth. He's not going to get pitches," Martinez said. "Right now he's getting pitches to hit because he's hitting ninth. He's that extra leadoff hitter, because you have (Adam) Eaton, (Brian) Dozier and Rendon hitting behind him."

One year after tweaking his lineup on a near-daily basis, Martinez has stuck to a more set batting order so far this season.

"We've talked about this a lot. And after the first inning, they just become hitters," the manager said. "They become hitters in different situations. I like the balance of our lineup right now, and that's why we're going with it the way it is."

Update: Things started off swimmingly for the Nationals tonight. They took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to Adam Eaton's leadoff hustle double and productive outs from Brian Dozier and Rendon. And then Stephen Strasburg cruised through his first two innings on 20 pitches. But then came the bottom of the third. It began with a Maikel Franco home run. It continued with a five-pitch walk of Aaron Nola, the opposing pitcher. Another walk of Jean Segura left Strasburg to face Bryce Harper with two on and one out. Strasburg fell behind 2-0, then got Harper to swing and miss at back-to-back changeups. So he tried to sneak a third one past him, and Harper wasn't fooled. He belted a three-run homer to left-center, his second in four games against his former team. And so the Nats trail 4-1 after three.

Update II: Make it 6-1. It was not a good night for Strasburg. After issuing another walk, he allowed a two-run triple to Segura. Then he intentionally walked Harper, which worked because he got Rhys Hoskins to ground out but also was emblematic of tonight's proceedings. After dominating the first two innings, Strasburg needed 30-plus pitches a piece in the third and fourth. And so he's done after only four, having allowed six runs and thrown 83 pitches.

Update III: Not so fast, folks. We've got a ballgame. The Nationals have stormed back to score four runs in the sixth and seventh and cut the deficit to 6-5. They got a two-out RBI double from Rendon in the sixth, then homers from both Yan Gomes and Howie Kendrick in the seventh to knock Nola from the game. Two scoreless innings from Joe Ross helped a lot, and now this game is there for the taking late.

Update IV: Robles to the rescue. With two outs in the top of the ninth, he took Edubray Ramos deep to left, tying this game at 6-6. And though there was a scare in the bottom of the inning, Sean Doolittle struck out Harper with a 1-2 fastball and then got J.T. Realmuto to line out to left to strand the winning run on second. We're going to extra innings. For April baseball, this is awfully good stuff.

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