Wood batting second, Thomas drops to sixth

NEW YORK – James Wood’s movement up the Nationals lineup continues today as he gets bumped up to the No. 2 spot against Mets right-handed starter Luis Severino. In fact, all of the Nats’ left-handed hitters moved up the order for tonight’s second game of this three-game set in Queens.

To face Severino, who held the Nats to one run on seven hits, no walks and four strikeouts over eight innings a month ago, manager Davey Martinez is putting lefties CJ Abrams, Wood, Jesse Winker, Keibert Ruiz (switch-hitter) and Luis García Jr. in the first five spots in the order. That does mean some guys have to move down.

Lane Thomas, who has hit second in 48 of his 63 games, moves down to sixth in the lineup for the first time this season.

“I just wanted to get our lefties up there against Severino, all of them up there, and see if we can score early,” Martinez said during his pregame media session. “I bumped Lane down a little bit just to take his mind off some stuff. Gotta get him ready to hit the fastball again. He's a little late, so I just wanted to get some other guys up there.”

The Nats struggled against left-hander Jose Quintana last night and have struggled to score early lately. They haven’t scored first in any of their last three games.

They did, however, put up five runs over the final two innings Tuesday in a last-ditch effort that fell just short. Looking to carry that momentum into the early innings tonight, Martinez has moved all of his lefties up.

“Wood's swinging the bat well. Abrams has been swinging the bat well. Winker has been swinging the bat well,” Martinez said. “So hopefully it jumpstarts our offense a little bit early in the game. And those guys, they all hit lefties fairly well, too, as we saw last night with Wood. So they're gonna be fine up there.”

As for Thomas, Martinez is hoping taking pressure off him in the lower half of the lineup will help him get back to hitting fastballs well.

Thomas’ batting average against four-seam fastballs is down from .304 to .286 this year and his slugging is down from .596 to .518. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate is up from 18.5 percent last year to 24.2 percent.

“I just want him to get ready to hit the fastball,” Martinez said. “When he's really good and he's had success, he doesn't miss fastballs. This year, he's missing fastballs. He's trying to stay on the ball a little bit too much. I just want him to try to drive the ball to left-center field like he's done in the past. Good things happen when he does that.”

If those lefties get on base ahead of Thomas, he should see a lot of fastballs. For good things to happen, he’ll have to stay on top of them. That could be a key for the Nationals with his new-look lineup.

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