Left fielder Adam Eaton demonstrated Wednesday against the Braves that his knee is fine and he can take the hard hit. Eaton dove to his left and stretched out toward the warning track to rob Braves hitter Ozzie Albies of extra bases with a spectacular catch in the third inning of the Nats' 7-1 series finale setback in Atlanta.
Eaton had promised that his knee was solid and that he would go all out on every play as he returns from major knee surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2017 season. He did that on the effort against Albies.
Starting pitcher Max Scherzer was impressed with the effort and execution by Eaton on the play.
"That was awesome," Scherzer said. "We were kind of giving the gap, daring them to hit it there, and that just shows you Eaton's got some range. To be able to go out there and make a diving catch like that, that's a heck of an effort. So, when your teammates are doing that, you want to bring that kind of effort back and show it to them."
The play demonstrates the upgrade the Nationals have on defense in left field. And with the range Michael A. Taylor has in center and the athleticism of Bryce Harper in right field, the Nats outfield has become a formidable trio.
Manager Davey Martinez on the grab and the status of Eaton's knee: "Unbelievable. Every day, he feels better. It was an amazing catch. I thought when he hit it, 'Oh, that's gonna not be good. What a great play."
One major positive for the bullpen coming out of Atlanta is that the "Law Firm" of Kintzler, Madson and Doolittle got some rest.
None of the three pitched against the Braves after getting work in Cincinnati.
Ryan Madson has pitched in two games without allowing a run, but hasn't appeared in a game since April 1. Brandon Kintzler has been in one game, and not since March 30. Sean Doolittle has pitched in two games and allowed two runs. His last game was April 1. The seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning bullpen choices for the Nats are fresh for the Mets series beginning today.
A key matchup Wednesday for Scherzer was against Braves hitter Preston Tucker in the first with two men on. Tucker solved Scherzer with a three-run homer.
"Obviously, that was a curveball, and I wanted to get that in the dirt," Scherzer lamented. "It stayed at the knees. That gives him a chance to get his arms extended and allowed him to hit a home run. Obviously, of course I second-guess stuff. But it also comes down to execution. I didn't execute that pitch in the spot that I wanted to, and so that's where in the future, you realize what you did and make adjustments. That'll be stuff we work on in the bullpen."