Nats’ depth a key to run for wild card berth

Bench players have turned into starters throughout the season to help the Nationals turn things around.

The first spark was from Gerardo Parra, who arrived in May from the Giants. Parra and his “Baby Shark” started it all off with a grand slam against the Dodgers.

The most recent spark has come from veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera, in his second stint with the Nats after playing in Washington for 49 games in 2014. Cabrera started the season with 93 games for Texas.

Cabrera went 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs on Wednesday in the 17-7 blowout of the Reds.

“Awesome. Great pickup,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez of Cabrera. “(Mike Rizzo) called me and said, ‘Hey, what about Cabrera?’ If he thinks he can help, yeah, I mean ... and he’s been unbelievable.”

Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick have turned into starters when injuries sidelined regulars. They have proven to be valuable assets because they contributed at the plate when called upon.

“Some of these guys ... all of a sudden, our bunch, our bench, they have like 5,000 hits apiece with everybody on it - that’s pretty impressive,” Martinez said. “I mean, it’s unbelievable, so it’s kind of nice to look down there and say, ‘OK, you’re going to pinch-hit now’ or “You’re going to pinch-hit now’ or ‘You’re playing today,’ and then have those guys, those veteran guys, who can do that.”

Parra-Laughing-Dance-Party-Gray-Sidebar.jpgRizzo does deserve a lot of credit for finding veterans that can contribute during the season. Parra and Cabrera have been key finds. Pinpointing Kendrick and Adams in the offseason as difference-makers provided depth so the Nats would not miss a beat if they had frontline injuries. Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes can be added to that list of key acquisitions by Rizzo. Suzuki went 2-for-4 with two runs, a three-run homer and four RBIs on Wednesday.

Outfielder Adam Eaton, who was 2-for-5 with a three-run homer on Wednesday, said the 10-run fifth inning demonstrated how deep this Nats team has become.

“I think it shows our depth,” Eaton said. “I think that’s something that we’ve since spring training have really focused on: having depth. I think Rizzo’s put us in a great position in that sense. Anybody coming off the bench, one through nine, pinch-hitters, to be able to come up and put good swings on baseballs and not give in too much. We don’t have too many holes in the lineup. I think that was something coming into spring training that we knew was one of our strengths. To be able to flex that a little bit there is pretty cool.”

Winning pitcher Stephen Strasburg said Martinez deserves some credit for allowing the veterans who have arrived to naturally marinate with the players already in the clubhouse.

“He’s kind of let the veterans in the clubhouse take over,” Strasburg said. “Some of the guys they have brought in have a little spark in here. They keep it loose and they keep it fun.”

If the Nats are going to complete a remarkable turnaround, it will be Cabrera, Parra, Adams and Kendrick as much as Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon. Team depth is critical to taking that next step deep into October.

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