Nats go with Turner-Soto combo atop lineup for first time in 2021

Davey Martinez has mentioned more than once his interest in batting Juan Soto second at times, and his interest in batting Victor Robles ninth at times. For today’s series finale in St. Louis, the Nationals manager decided to try out both in those spots.

With an early-afternoon matchup against Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright, Martinez wanted to get his two best hitters as many at-bats as possible and give them a chance to get on the board early. So it’s Trea Turner leading off with Soto second, each player bumped up a spot from where they’ve been through the season’s first eight games.

“I teeter-tottered a lot about hitting Soto second,” Martinez said in his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “I kind of want to hit Soto second at times. I thought today, with us facing Wainwright, those two guys have some good success against him, to get them up there and try to get as many at-bats as possible against him.”

Turner indeed has enjoyed success against Wainwright in his career, going 5-for-9 with a double and three RBIs, including in the 2019 National League Championship Series. Soto’s numbers (1-for-9, one walk) aren’t impressive, but nobody’s questioning his ability to put together quality at-bats, no matter who he’s facing.

More than that, Martinez believes there are more opportunities for Soto to have more impact when he bats second.

Soto-Swings-Gray-HR-LA-Sidebar.jpg“I like the fact that late in a game, he gets that extra at-bat,” the manager said. “I’ve been around a lot of years and watched in the top of the ninth, bottom of the ninth, you’re down or you want to add on some runs, and sometimes your best hitter is on deck and never gets a chance to hit that last at-bat. It gives us an opportunity to get him out there if we need him for that extra at-bat.”

With Josh Bell getting the afternoon off after starting the first two games of the series in his delayed season debut, Ryan Zimmerman becomes the No. 3 hitter. It’s an extremely familiar position for the veteran, but not one he’s spent much time in recently.

During his long career, Zimmerman has batted third 899 times, by far the most of any spot in the lineup. But today will represent his first time batting there since 2018, and only the 12th time he’s done it since 2013.

With those three atop his lineup, Martinez moved Robles down to the ninth position. The young center fielder had done it plenty of times before (this is his 65th career start at the bottom of the lineup) but it’s the first time he’s been moved out of the leadoff spot this year. Robles has successfully reached base in all eight games thus far, posting a .353 on-base percentage.

“I think he’s doing well,” Martinez said. “He’s getting his swing off on good pitches. He seems to be fouling off the pitches he was hitting in spring training a little bit. But this had nothing to do (with that). Like I’ve said, there will be days when I put him back at leadoff and keep Turner two and Soto three. Today I wanted to go Turner one and Soto two, and Zim’s going to hit third.”

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