Rare display of patience at plate pleases Martinez

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals aren’t going to hit for much power this season, that seems pretty safe to say.

Only three players projected to make the Opening Day roster hit double-digit home runs in the majors last year: Lane Thomas, Joey Meneses and Jeimer Candelario. Only Thomas hit more than 13 homers.

If the Nationals are going to score runs this season, they’re going to have to manufacture them. Davey Martinez acknowledges his hitters are going to have to show they can deliver in situational at-bats, whether moving a runner up with less than two outs, driving him home from third with a flyball or coming through with a two-out RBI single.

They’d also benefit from drawing a few more walks. Actually, make that a lot more walks.

The Nats didn’t do that enough last season. Their 442 walks (an average of 2.7 per game) ranked 26th in the majors. And though they’ve been a bit better this spring, they still rank 25th with only 69 walks (an average of 3.3 per game).

Those numbers, though, got a nice boost Monday night during a 3-2 victory over the Mets. The Nationals drew eight walks, including six of them with future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander on the mound.

“We’re making a conscious effort of not chasing,” manager Davey Martinez said. “Especially our young hitters. We’re trying to teach them not to chase, get the ball in the zone. They did a great job today off one of the best pitchers in the game. I was really pleased about the way the at-bats were today.”

Thomas drew two of the walks, including one to open the bottom of the first against Verlander. Candelario and Corey Dickerson drew back-to-back, two-out walks in the bottom of the fifth, Dickerson’s coming with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run. And Alex Call drew two of his own, including a leadoff free pass in the seventh to put himself in position to score the eventual winning run.

But maybe the most important came from CJ Abrams, who opened the fifth with his first walk of the spring. It’s a real point of emphasis for the Nationals with their young shortstop, who walked only once in 163 plate appearances after he joined the team last August.

This was just one base on balls in an exhibition game, but it came against Verlander, and it underscored the entire lineup’s solid approach on a night when it had to manufacture offense.

“(Hitting coach Darnell Coles) was on them today about just hitting strikes,” Martinez said. “And they did a great job. For a young hitter that’s eager to swing all the time, I thought they did really well today.”

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