Garcia’s power, Rainey’s return and Cavalli’s mixed results

Juan Soto and Josiah Gray stole the show Wednesday night in Miami, but there were some other notable developments during the Nationals’ 7-5 win over the Marlins, plus one that took place in Worcester, Mass., of all places ...

* Luis García had another big night at the plate, again showing off his power stroke. The 21-year-old second baseman went 2-for-5 with a double and a homer, helping provide some early offense for the Nats and continuing his late-season surge.

García is now batting .286 (22-for-77) with eight doubles, one triple, three homers, a .532 slugging percentage and .836 OPS in September. That’s no small feat for the youngster, who at times since his permanent promotion from the minors didn’t look big league quality at the plate.

Now, though, García is starting to hit with more consistency. And he’s doing it against both lefties and righties.

Garcia-HR-Trot-Blue-MIA-Sidebar.jpg“He’s starting to have better at-bats,” manager Davey Martinez said in his postgame Zoom session with reporters. “When he gets the ball in the strike zone, and specifically up, he has good swings on them. And that’s something we’re going to keep harping on him for the next 10 days or whatever. We want him to get the ball up in the strike zone. When he does that, he hits the ball hard.”

García remains far from a finished product. He’s still prone to sloppy mistakes in the field and on the bases. He rarely draws walks. In 63 big league games this season, he’s batting a pedestrian .243 with a .278 on-base percentage and .700 OPS.

But more and more, García is showing glimpses of what he can be at this level.

“He’s playing well,” Martinez said. “He’s even playing a lot better at second base. He’s moving his feet a lot better. We’re going to continue to work with him for the next week and a half. And this offseason, I’m going to talk to him about what his plans are, whether he’s going to play winter ball or not. But we want him to get better and come to spring training ready to go.”

* The bottom of the ninth nearly turned into a disaster after Ryne Harper gave up two homers following a leadoff single, turning a 7-2 lead into a 7-5 nail biter. But Tanner Rainey saved the day with the latest in his growing string of dominant relief performances.

The right-hander, just recalled from Triple-A Rochester after striking out nine straight batters across three appearances, didn’t have much time to warm up or get mentally ready for Wednesday’s situation, but he still handled it with aplomb.

Rainey induced two groundball outs to end the game and threw six of his seven pitches for strikes. He’s now made three appearances in the big leagues since his return and retired all eight batters faced, the first six via strikeout. Combine that with those three final appearances for Rochester, and Rainey has now retired the last 17 batters faced across two levels.

“I like what I see,” Martinez said. “You know what I like a lot from Rainey right now? He looks way more under control than he has in the past. His mechanics are spot-on right now. His arm’s coning through very nice. And he’s attacking the strike zone. He’s throwing strike after strike. If he can do that and sustain that, like I’ve said before ... I want you to pitch the eighth and ninth inning. You have the stuff for it.”

* Cade Cavalli’s latest start for Rochester had some encouraging developments, though the organization’s top prospect has yet to put it all together since his promotion to Triple-A.

Cavalli struck out eight without issuing a walk in his start against the Worcester Red Sox, but he did give up four runs on seven hits (two of them homers) in only four innings.

The 2020 first-round pick is now 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA in five Triple-A starts, putting 41 runners on base in only 24 innings. This comes after dominant performances earlier this season for Single-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg.

Cavalli did retake the minor league lead for the season with 174 strikeouts, no small achievement considering how many pitchers there are across five different levels of play.

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