One of the players many hoped would step up offensively for the Nationals in 2020 did just that in game two of this abbreviated campaign.
Victor Robles is one of the Nats many hoped could pick up the offensive slack left when Anthony Rendon signed with the Angels. Saturday night he showed that promise, going 3-for-4 with a double, a two-run homer and four RBIs in the Nats' 9-2 win over the Yankees. It was the defending champions first win of 2020.
"Tremendous," said manager Davey Martinez on a Zoom call. "He uplifted us early. It was a great night for him. He can do those kind of things. He really can. The biggest thing with him is just be on time when he is hitting. When he does that, he hits the ball hard."
AsdrÃºbal Cabrera also went 3-for-4 with a double and a homer as the Nats raced out to a 7-2 lead and rode the outstanding pitching of late-announced starter Erick Fedde and the bullpen.
Robles' two-run double off Yankees lefty starter James Paxton lifted the Nats to a 2-0 lead in the second inning. He then hit a two-run homer in the fourth that gave the Nats a 5-2 cushion. It was the most RBIs the 23-year-old has had in a game since he connected for five RBIs on Sept. 26, 2018, against the Marlins.
When Robles drilled the two-run double to begin the scoring he made a gesture with his fingers as if he was playing an imaginary trumpet at second base. After the game, Robles was wearing a red muscle t-shirt with a golden trumpet for the postgame Zoom call. Robles said the trumpet gesture - similar to the pinching shark gesture the players made to each other last season after big plays that gained so much popularity in the clubhouse and with the fans - was the idea of teammate Emilio BonifÃ¡cio.
"It's just our new little sign that we use as a team," Robles said through team interpreter Octavio Martinez on his postgame video chat. "Last year we had the Baby Shark little hand gestures with Gerardo Parra. This year it was Emilio BonifÃ¡cio that created that sign of the flute to make it fun and get some energy going. We all want to get to second base and play that flute amongst each other. It's definitely fun."
Robles said BonifÃ¡cio not only created the trumpet shirt but also promised to bring in his very own trumpet for the next game.
Robles did a nice job of battling back from an 0-2 count in the second against Paxton. He fouled off three pitches before hitting an 84-mph knuckle curve for a double and the opening runs of the game.
His homer in the fourth came off Michael King on a 93-mph four-seam fastball. Robles went for an inside pitch and was able to quickly turn on it. But after the game, he said he wasn't necessarily just looking for the inside pitch.
"I just know I have quick hands and it's a reaction," Robles said. "I go up there looking for a good pitch to make solid contact. I know my hands are quick enough that they'll get there, so that's all that is. I just go up there, positive attitude, and react to the pitch. I've been able to react on those inside pitches very well."
"We talked about that early today," Martinez said of Robles' two-strike approach. "With this shortened season, we have to put the ball in play. That's a huge thing, especially with guys on base. They did that tonight. We got to continue to do that all year long. Just move the baseball, especially with two strikes. You just want to try to get (on) for your teammates coming up behind you and see what happens."
Robles did strike out in his last at-bat. Even on a night when he was good on three huge hits, Martinez said his young outfielder can learn from that out, which started the bottom of the eighth.
"He hits the ball out and he's just got to regroup," Martinez said. "I don't know what he was trying to do his last at-bat. He did get a little bigger than his previous at-bat, but all in all he had a really great day for us."
Robles also impressed in his work with veteran Michael A. Taylor in the outfield. Taylor subbed for Juan Soto, who is on the COVID-19 injured list.
Robles caught a long fly ball in center and then a line drive off Luke Voit's bat in the eighth. Taylor finished the inning, making a low running catch on a line drive by Gary SÃ¡nchez.
"It feels great playing with Michael," Robles said. "We know he has a tremendous range and obviously I miss Juan and playing alongside Juan, but I know I feel actually comfortable with all my teammates.
"We all go out there giving it our all, 100 percent, and it's great having him out there. We know, especially, Michael goes out there and defensively gives us all he can. He always does a great job defensively for us, so it's great knowing you have someone like that along your side."
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