The Nationals are looking to get Trea Turner more involved in generating opportunities on offense. It was a strategy they used at the beginning of the season when he was at the top of the order and everything was clicking.
Turner stole 12 bases in April. He stole four bases in May. That was 16 in the first two months.
In June he had six stolen bases. In the month of July, up to the 27th, he had no stolen bases. So from June 1 to July 27 he stole only six bases. That time frame coincided with up and down days at the plate for Turner and his placement in the order. He walked only 13 times combined in June and July.
Since July 28, in a span of four games, he stole six bases. What has been the difference lately?
“I think it’s hard to steal when you’re down, and we haven’t been winning that much,” Turner said. “It’s hard to steal when you’re batting seventh and there’s always people in front of you. We’ve got a good lineup. So batting down in the order, there’s a lot of opportunity to drive in runs and less opportunity to steal.
“And even in the two-hole, sometimes there’s a little bit less opportunity to steal than batting first. So, I think it’s all circumstantial. It’s just different reasons.”
Turner knows that when the Nats are running, as they did Wednesday afternoon, they are a better team. And that’s a good thing for this offense, which in the past relied more on just hitting home runs to score.
“Oh yeah, of course,” Turner said. “I think it puts a lot of pressure on the other team, like in the first inning - I hit into that fielder’s choice. If I’m not on second base, I don’t know if we score that run. So to score in the first inning is huge. Those extras bases are big. Over the course of a season, it helps out a lot.”
Outfielder Bryce Harper recognizes from his vantage point in the order that he will have more ways to do damage when he comes up to bat if the likes of Turner and Adam Eaton are on base and in scoring position.
“It’s huge. Him and Eaton at the top right there, our table-setters are huge,” Harper said. “It just lengthens our lineup so much when you have those two guys getting on base all the time, and then Rendon there as well just helps us get more runs. We are able to do a couple of different things with our lineup. When your seven-hole hitter is Daniel Murphy, you have a chance. It’s a special lineup.”
When manager Davey Martinez envisioned the offense running to generate scoring chances, he wanted to take advantage of the speed of Turner, Eaton and Michael A. Taylor.
Same thing happened to Taylor. As his playing time diminished, so did his stolen base numbers. Taylor had nine stolen bases in March and April combined. He had four stolen bases in May. He stole 10 in June. But in July he had just one stolen base.
So Turner and Taylor stole only one base combined from July 1 to July 27. The Nats went 11-14 in July.
Against Miami and the Mets, Turner stole two bases in each of the three games so far this week.
He stole two bases early in each of the wins over the Mets Tuesday and Wednesday, a part of 25-4 and 5-3 wins.
“Today, yesterday, that’s who he is,” Martinez said. “He’s playing really well. They all are, Anthony (Rendon) with the big home run there. (Noah) Syndergaard ain’t easy to hit, and we score a couple runs off him early was huge.”