Turner’s early homer and late sliding catch bookend 2-1 win for Nats

Trea Turner went 2-for-4, smacking a solo homer over the right field wall on the game’s second pitch and then helping the Nationals with his defense late in a nail-biting 2-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday night. The blast was the 10th leadoff home run of his career, a new Nationals record.

With a home run and a single to start the contest, Turner was in the midst of five hits in his last six at-bats in the series. He now has two homers in the first two games in New York. After losing three straight, the Nats have won two in a row to get within a game of .500 at 6-7.

“Trea is starting to play really well,” said manager Davey Martinez during his postgame Zoom video call. “We know he can do these kinds of things. He’s a game-changer. That’s what we needed to get on the board early. It was nice.”

Victor Robles added a two-out bloop single to score Howie Kendrick in the second. But Robles tried to extend the single into a double, and was thrown out at second base on a nice throw from left fielder Brandon Nimmo. Those were the only two runs the Nats could muster against Rick Porcello and the Mets bullpen.

Turner now has five hits and four RBIs in the first two games of the series in New York, raising his average from .196 to .255. This outburst at the plate comes after he had struggled a bit out of the blocks to begin this season, going just 2-for-23 in his previous six games. He says the lack of an opportunity to use technology in games has slowed the quick alterations he was used to making in years past.

“I felt good in the box and I feel like my approach was good but not having video is a little different,” Turner said in a postgame Zoom video call. “I feel like in year’s past I was pretty good at going back and checking out the swing real quick and making the little adjustment I need to make in game. Early on, I couldn’t do that.

“Finally, I made the right adjustment a few games ago and started putting the barrel on the ball and feel a little better. The last four or five games or so I feel like my contact has been a little bit stronger. It’s just a matter of time for the hits to start to fall.”

The Nats generated hits in the fourth and fifth innings that were erased by double plays from an aggressive Mets defense.

New York did it again in the eighth inning, a second 4-6-3 twin killing on a grounder off the bat of Turner. It was the first time in Turner’s career he had grounded into two double plays in the same game. In the first five innings, the Nats had eight base hits but only two runs.

But Turner remained resilient. The shortstop was a part of two huge defensive plays for the Nats in the late going that helped save the game.

With one out and two men on for the Mets in the seventh, Tanner Rainey induced a grounder to second base off the bat of Jeff McNeil. Turner was in the middle of the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Turner-Sliding-Catch-on-Knees-Gray-Sidebar.jpgThen in the ninth, Turner made a sliding, over-the-shoulder catch down the left field line into foul ground off the bat of Andrés Giménez. Turner slid on his knees and fell down on his chest, but got up and was OK to finish the game.

“That play he made was incredible,” Martinez said. “We talk a lot about the shifting stuff. For me, you want that athlete to stay at shortstop. We try to keep him over as much as possible strictly because of those balls. Those little fly balls. I can’t stand when we can’t get to those balls because it’s an out. It’s a big out for our pitchers, especially late in the game. Tonight, he got to that ball. I’m glad he’s OK. He said he’s OK. He took a nice tumble there but he’s doing well.”

Turner said he was concerned about how much room he had to make the play as the ball fell toward the ground and where he was going to land if he dove for the ball.

“I thought I had a good chance,” Turner said. “It’s always, do you have enough room down the foul line and where’s the left fielder? For me, I felt that the ball was hit too low for Juan (Soto) to have a chance. So I kind of take that into account. If it was hit higher I probably would have maybe deferred to him. I feel like I try to judge that in my head. Then it’s whether or not you run out of room. That’s why I tried sliding because I knew the wall was getting kind of close. There’s not much foul territory over there. I got the last little bit of it and had enough room to make the play.”

Turner said he sometimes teases Soto after the play is made when they have to come together for balls in left field.

“I joke with Juan a lot that I have to play left field and shortstop at the same time,” Turner said. “Trying to get my WAR higher, playing both positions. I figured he was back a little bit maybe playing no doubles and had to go after it. Kind of got struck in the ground and it was a little bit of an awkward play, but glad I could keep him off second base because that would have been a big run or situation for them in general, having a man on second with one out.”

It was a huge play in a one-run game for the Nats because if the ball dropped in, Giménez would reach second base, representing the tying run. Turner understood if he didn’t make that play, all the work the Nats had done to stay ahead in the game was in jeopardy.

“To score two runs early and then they score that one run a little later, but then kind of a tight ball game all the way through, everyone is making plays,” Turner said. “I know Tanner got that big double play. They did a good job with their bullpen. Their bullpen was tough on us tonight. (Jared) Hughes was really good. Good to get a win like that, especially when you are not slugging the ball all over the field, I think is very nice.

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