The Nationals’ Trea Turner played each game of the three-game series against the Chicago Cubs over the weekend. That was no small feat considering the shortstop had not played in a major league game since April 2 following recovery from a broken right index finger.
He went 0-for-4 Sunday, but drew a walk, scored a run and reminded those watching of his ability to make defensive plays at his position in coordinating the middle infield for the Nats.
“I feel good,” Turner said. “Today was probably the best I felt out of the three days. The numbers are different but that’s how baseball is. It’s a matter of making the adjustments at the plate. Health feels good, it’s just a matter of playing good.”
Turner was right in the middle of a 5-6-3 double play to get his pitcher Jeremy Hellickson out of a major jam to begin what would end up being a 6-5 loss to the Cubs. Chicago managed only one run in the first inning after loading the bases twice.
In the eighth inning, Turner got a glove on and almost held on to an over the shoulder sinking liner off the bat of Albert Almora, but could not make the catch in the end. Turner had reached and caught up to the ball, bobbled it a bit, then almost brought it in as he dove towards center field.
“Should’ve caught it the first time,” Turner lamented. “But it’s a tough play running back. I felt like a ran a pretty long ways and couldn’t get a handle on it, but thankfully they didn’t score that inning so no big deal.”
The Nats came that close to erasing a 6-1 deficit. After home runs by Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick, the Nats had whittled Chicago’s advantage down to one run, 6-5, but was never able to find the equalizer before running out of outs.
“The boys played hard all the way till the end,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “We’re down four runs and they keep battling back.”
Playing behind Hellickson in Sunday’s finale, Turner reacted to watching his teammate struggle in a situation he normally can excel in. The starter walked three batters to begin the game and the Cubs scored a run in three straight innings on their way to building a 4-0 lead.
“Yeah, it was different. It happens every once and awhile,” Turner said. “You deal with some adversity and got himself in a little bit of trouble but picked us up and got us out of that with only one run there.
“He’s battled for us and made good pitches for us this year. We need to continue to play that defense we played behind him in that first inning. Rendon made a good play and then we turned a double play for him. If we continue to do those things I think we’ll be alright.”
Turner was not surprised the Nats did not fold up after facing an early deficit Sunday night, especially with players like Rendon, Kendrick and Juan Soto on the roster.
“I think that’s something we’ve had in the last four or five years since I’ve been here,” Turner said. “We’ve had a deep lineup, guys that can compete, one through nine, sometimes (even) the pitchers. Especially coming off the bench, our guys that pinch hit for us have had really, really big at-bats for us so just being tough on those guys, taking pride in that. I think that’s the lineup we have.”
And watching Turner dive for a play and be right in the middle of some throws that had to be made with grip and velocity demonstrated that his finger is doing well. That’s a good sign because the Nats need a healthy Turner in order to make a run for the NL East pennant.
Turner hoped they would’ve won the series against the Cubs after taking two of three against the Mets at Nats Park.
“It was alright. I think we could’ve done better for sure,” Turner said. “But I think we showed a lot of positives, especially in the last two days. Yesterday was a good win and today we battled back a bit, we came up short, but we played some good baseball. So just build on that and continue to do that.”
* Rendon’s three-run shot was the first major hit for the Nats as they tried to solve Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who had no-hit them for the game’s first four innings.
“I truly believe we got the ball up and out over the plate like we talked about,” Martinez said. “First couple of innings his two-seamer is really good. The changeup is really good. But we were able to get the ball up and out over the plate a little bit better. Rendon goes the other way, hits a home run. And the at-bats changed a little bit and they started hitting.”
Rendon has picked up where he left off after returning from an injured elbow May 7. The former Rice standout has 13 hits and eight extra bases, including six doubles and two homers in that span. He has an extra-base hit in 20 of 32 games so far this season. In his most recent six-game hit streak, Rendon has hit .435 (10-for-23) with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.