Thames more relaxed further down the order

First baseman Eric Thames went 2-for-5 with three RBIs in the Nationals' 8-5 comeback win over the division rival Braves on Tuesday night, all from the No. 8 spot in the order.

Along with Trea Turner and Adam Eaton, Thames was credited with a team-high three hard-hit balls on the night, according to Statcast.

Thames Dugout High Fives Sidebar.jpgThames contributed an RBI single in the second inning that got the Nats on the board. In the fifth with the bases loaded and one out, his hotshot grounder dropped out of the glove of first baseman Freddie Freeman, far enough away to allow another run to score. And in the ninth, Thames' RBI single scored Luis García to put the Nats up by three runs.

Manager Davey Martinez's lineup had Thames batting in the No. 8 hole Tuesday night for the second game in a row. The skipper was looking for a way to jumpstart Thames at the plate. The burly first baseman had started the season hitting just .175.

"We moved him down just so he could relax a little bit and not worry so much about being in the middle of the order, and he has done well," Martinez said during a postgame Zoom video call. "We want to kind of get him going a little bit and I just want him to just relax and see good pitches and hit, and he's done that."

The skipper likens Thames' new spot in the order to having a second cleanup hitter in a lineup.

"We will keep him there," Martinez said. "We will keep getting him going. What I really like is that he is really focused on staying in the middle of the field and not pulling off everything. If he can continue to do that, he is going to hit for us. He has hit before, and he is going to start hitting home runs. I like where he is at right now."

During Thames' ninth inning at-bat, right before he sliced a single into left field, he appeared on MASN cameras to grab at his left arm after a swing.

"He's OK. He's a big guy," Martinez said. "He's wound pretty tight. He grabs a lot of things and we get scared all the time, but he is fine."

Last Saturday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Thames hit a ball hard to deep right-center field that was caught for an out. In what might have been a bigger inning, the Nats had to settle for two runs on a Juan Soto homer. Thames was upset after the at-bat, thinking he had a chance to put Orioles starter Asher Wojciechowski on the ropes.

When Thames returned to the dugout he was extremely frustrated, and his yelling could be heard in the empty stadium. Thames batted in the fifth spot that night. The last two games, Martinez has had him in the eight hole. Thames has responded with three hits, including a home run.

"It's definitely awesome," Thames said Tuesday night in a postgame Zoom video call. "I feel like it's been tough. I feel like I have had some good at-bats where I just line out or hit it right into the shift or a guy makes a diving catch or a great play against the wall, like in Baltimore. And these are adding more pressure on yourself trying to help contribute and kind of pull your weight. Today was big, being able to get some timely hits and help the boys win."

The Nats' biggest inning Tuesday came in the fifth, when they scored four runs on six hits. Five of those hits were singles.

"Everybody says that the home run is a rally-killer," Thames joked. "It's always nice like getting guys doubles, singles, triples, just like keep it rolling. Once everybody is on the boat, you guys just take off. It's awesome. Home runs are nice too. No one's complained about that, but it's nice getting a big key knock, get some RBIs and stand on first or second base."

Thames looks at the current state of the team and understands the Nationals have had to make adjustments to the lineup and the pitching staff because of injuries to the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Starlin Castro and Sean Doolittle. But he says they are not making any excuses in their 9-12 start.

"That's definitely a part of life and a part of baseball," Thames said. "You can't control those kind of things. But this clubhouse is so loose, probably the loosest clubhouse I've been a part of. Everybody is just having fun. We are out there on the field playing for each other and competing. That's what we are doing. No matter who is in the lineup on a certain day or if they are batting leadoff or ninth hole or three hole or whatever, everybody is going to contribute and compete."

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