Robles shows off multifaceted skills in 5-1 win over Mets

Nationals center fielder Victor Robles slammed his eighth homer of the season in a 5-1 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday night.

But his ability to lay down a perfect push bunt in the first inning provided another example of what the budding star can do with his bat. Robles turns 22 on Sunday.

He scored two of the Nats’ five runs in the win.

In the first inning after Adam Eaton walked, Robles dropped his bunt away from Mets pitcher Wilmer Font, moving Eaton to second base. Font could not easily grab the ball to his left, so Robles made it safely to first.

Anthony Rendon then delivered an RBI double that scored Eaton and put Robles on third base. Robles scored on a Juan Soto grounder to shortstop that turned into a fielder’s choice.

robles-runs-white-home-finale-sidebar.jpgRobles’ home run led off the third. It was his second homer in the series and third this month. He has nine total bases in the first two games against the Mets.

“The biggest thing for him is staying through the ball,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “Staying in the middle of the field. When he does that, he’s good. If you look at Victor up close, he’s not a small guy. He’s well built. He’s strong. He’s a strong kid. Like I said, he’s doing really well. This 21-year-old kid that loves to play the game and every day is learning something. I’m proud of the way he’s playing, I’m proud of the way he’s handled himself. No excuses with him - when he messes up, he takes blame and moves on.”

“I work hard,” Robles said via team interpreter Octavio Martinez. “The work is delivering the fruits out there and take a good swing at a good pitch, and it’s paying off. I’ve always felt like I had the power. When I go up there, taking the same approach every time, same focus, and I haven’t changed anything at all.”

Robles leads the Nationals in homers at eight. Howie Kendrick, Rendon and Soto are next with six apiece. Robles also leads the team with eight stolen bases.

Veteran infielder Kendrick - who had a big night as well, with two hits, including a double and two RBIs - said Robles’ power comes from his strength, but also his preparation each day.

“I’m not that surprised, because last year or the year before, when he came up to you, you could see it,” Kendrick said. “And in BP, he’s really consistent in BP. He drives balls out opposite field, center field, left. I think he stays really balanced. Being a young guy, he’s still got a lot to learn, but I like where he’s at now, watching him play. He’s going to make some mistakes here and there, but that’s part of the game and that’s how you learn, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

What makes Robles a lethal weapon is his ability to keep defenses guessing: Will he swing for the fences or push a bunt past the pitcher? Where should the defense set up?

Even as his teammate, starting pitcher Patrick Corbin can see where that causes defenses problems.

“He’s probably one of the fastest guys in the game,” Corbin said. “He’s just getting better and better every time he’s up there. I didn’t know he had that type of power where he can really drive the ball. He’s just dangerous. You got to play him pretty much straight up and protect against that bunt, so hopefully it leads to more and more hits.”

“That’s my game, bunting the ball, putting it in play and making things happen,” Robles said. “The home runs are coming because I go up there with the same approach, put good swings at the ball and things are happening.”

Robles has long had the sacrifice bunt in his toolkit. The coaching staff has suggested bunting for a hit more often.

“It’s something I’ve always had and I’ve always tried to do,” Robles said. “I brought that here. But the whole staff here has been very great at helping me improve and harness my skills and trying to improve.”

Update: Shortstop Trea Turner (broken right index finger) went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, a walk and a run scored in the second game of his rehab assignment with high SIngle-A Potomac. The next step is to play back-to-back games. The P-Nats are home all weekend.

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