Turner proving to be more than "speed guy" (Nats lose 7-6 in 10)

ATLANTA - The Nationals made the decision to make Trea Turner their everyday leadoff hitter because of his ability to get on base and then let his legs do the rest.

Nearly a month into the experiment, they're learning there's a lot more to Turner's game, including some legitimate power potential.

Turner enters today's series finale against the Braves sporting not only a .319 batting average, but also a .546 slugging percentage. That latter mark would rank eighth in the National League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

The rookie, of course, doesn't have anything close to enough plate appearances to qualify - he has 148 and would need 378 - but those who have been watching him for a while believe that his power potential is legitimate and could continue to grow.


"He's slight of body, but he has good bat speed," manager Dusty Baker said. "But, his job is still to get on base. And then if he can show some occasional power ... those things come a lot of times later in a career, as he gets stronger and gets his man muscles."

Turner's power has come in multiple forms. He has eight doubles, six triples and four homers in 33 games this season.

Oh, he's also 13-for-14 in stolen base attempts and has proven quite adept in center field, despite having no outfield experience prior to this summer.

Maybe it's time to think of Turner as more than just a "speedy leadoff guy."

"I think Trea has a lot more things than people think," teammate Ryan Zimmerman said. "Usually, fast people in major league baseball are just really fast. I don't want to say they're not good baseball players, because obviously they wouldn't be here if they weren't. But speed is their No. 1 thing. Trea is just a really good baseball player who is also maybe the fastest guy in the league. The baseball IQ that he has, combined with that speed, it's obviously pretty special."

What kind of player Turner ultimately develops into remains an open-ended question. Still, it's safe to say the Nationals have visions of greater things.

"Who knows? The sky's the limit with Trea," Baker said. "But right now, we'll take the occasional home run, and stay out of the air and use his speed."

Update: They've played four innings here today, and so far this game is resembling the previous two. In other words: The Nats jump out to a big early lead, then let the Braves rally to make it interesting.

The Nationals scored four runs in the top of the third, the big blow coming in the form of a three-run homer from Bryce Harper, who has been on fire since returning from his neck injury. But, Gio Gonzalez proceeded to give three runs right back in the bottom of the inning, and the lefty continues to be haunted by walks, long at-bats and poor execution when he needs it.

The Nats defense hasn't helped, either, already committing three errors. Put that all together, and it's a 4-3 lead for the Nationals after four innings, with a whole lot of baseball yet to be played today.

Update II: They're through the sixth, the Nats now leading 6-4. Chris Heisey hammered a two-run homer in the top of the sixth, his eighth homer in only 114 at-bats this season.

Gonzalez made it 5 2/3 innings before getting pulled at 112 pitches. He allowed four runs, though four errors by his defense didn't help. Yusmeiro Petit is now pitching, and given how exhausted the rest of the bullpen is, he might be needed to get this thing at least to the ninth, if not to finish the game altogether.

Update III: It's now 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth, the Braves have the bases loaded with nobody out, Baker went to pull Petit from the game but the umps called for the tarp before he could do it. Yes, we're in a rain delay!

Update IV: The game resumed after a 1-hour, 4-minute delay, at which point Blake Treinen entered from the bullpen and tried to pitch out of the bases-loaded, no-out jam. He did everything he could, getting two groundballs to short. But the tying run did cross the plate, so now it's a 6-6 game entering the ninth.

Update V: And we're going extra innings! Treinen tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth, so we move to the 10th. Given the state of the Nats bullpen, this is not necessarily a positive development.

Update VI: It's over. Jace Peterson homered off Shawn Kelley with two outs in the bottom of the 10th. Nats lose, 7-6.

Pitching staff, defense falter in Nats' 10-inning ...
Game 123 lineups: Nats at Braves

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