One way the Nationals can get on a roll is for their leadoff hitter to lead the way.
Shortstop Trea Turner did that Monday night, going 3-for-4 with an RBI in the Nats 3-2 win over the Pirates. They have now won three of their last five games.
He set the tone by taking an extra base after a Ryan Zimmerman fly out to right field late in the game.
But in a rare night for Turner, he didn't actually score a run in a game where he had three or more hits. That happened four times in 2016, but not once to Turner in 2017.
Turner's RBI single in the fourth made it 3-0.
"Yeah, I feel better," Turner said. "Feel like I've been squaring the ball up a little bit more, still would like to drive it a little bit more but it's nice to be on base frequently and kind of make something happen. Score some runs."
Turner's speed and aggressive play took over after a single in the seventh. Zimmerman's fly out to Gregory Polanco in right field seemed far enough to get to second. But the the throw was perfect by Polanco.
A spectacular sprawling slide to the left and then over the bag allowed Turner to be called safe by second base umpire Eric Cooper. Turner ended up past second base but then had dropped his feet on the bag before second baseman Adam Frazier could apply the tag. The two-minute, 53-second review confirmed the call.
"I feel like I want to be aggressive all the time," Turner said of the play. "I thought I had made good decision on that ball and halfway to second base I realized I didn't, but it worked out.
"I think I want to be aggressive and I don't think the score necessarily dictates that maybe a little bit on certain situations here or there but I think I try to be smart and try to take chances that are going to favor our team."
Of course, the play actually took the bat out of Bryce Harper's hands as the slugger was intentionally walked for the second time in the game. Howie Kendrick flew out to end the threat.
Did Turner regret going for second on the Zimmerman flyout, thereby possibly not allowing Harper a chance to make a bigger impact with his swing?
"I'd rather be on second base," Turner said. "Howie's hitting like .800, too."
Manager Davey Martinez said he can understand the notion that they would prefer Turner to stay at first base after the fly out so Harper can see some pitches. But he also is never going to try to harness Turner's speed and aggressiveness.
"You do, but Trea's got to play the game and he thought he had a chance to make it and he did," Martinez said. "Great slide. I really don't think if you're facing Bryce Harper, regardless if there's a guy on first, second, whatever, base open, I think they still pitch around him. I've noticed they're giving him one pitch and then after that they're trying to make him chase."
Early in the season, Turner did a good job of finding his pitch even in a two-strike count. He hit .231 with 2-2 count and .308 in a full count.
Monday, he was aggressive and hung in at-bats, even facing two strike counts.
Turner was just 1-for-11 in 0-2 counts coming into the series opener against the Pirates. His double in the third came on a 1-2 count from pitcher Jameson Taillon. His single in the fifth came in a 3-2 count. His single in the seventh on a 1-1 count after starting 0-1.
"I feel like I'm hitting with two strikes every at-bat," Turner said. "Tonight, I hit with two strikes, twice, so I mean 50 percent of the time on a night where I felt good.
"And I don't care how good of a two-strike hitter you are or how much you care or don't care about hitting with two strikes, it's still hard. Because you can foul pitches off and one time you miss one pitch that's the end of the at-bat, but that's what I feel like it's happened a lot this year to be kind of where we're at now, I feel pretty good about it."
Of course, Turner would like to get into hitter's count so that he can see more pitches where he expects them to go in the strike zone.
"But I'd love to get in a lot more 3-1 counts and 3-0 counts and be able to do some damage but they're pitching me pretty well."
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