- The Washington Times
Thursday, July 30, 2020

Manager Dave Martinez mused after a 10-inning nailbiter of a victory that maybe his team could win in regulation the next day. On a humid Thursday afternoon, he got his wish.

Michael A. Taylor hit a two-run home run, Starlin Castro went 4-for-5 with two runs and the Nationals racked up 13 hits to pick up their second straight win over the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-4.

The Nationals’ offense looked uninspired at the outset of the week, managing to score just four runs in one three-game span. But after they awoke from that slumber Wednesday night with a four-run 10th inning, Max Scherzer reminded reporters that hitting sometimes can be contagious.

He may have spoken Thursday’s performance into existence, as the Nationals hit early and often off Blue Jays starter Hyun Jin Ryu.

“I always say that I believe in these guys,” Martinez said. “They’ll get it. They’ll start hitting the ball. I really liked the at-bats today.”

After an early Toronto run, Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki crushed a two-run double in the third to put them ahead, and Taylor homered in the next inning to push them ahead 4-1.

The Blue Jays managed three home runs of their own, all solo shots. Teoscar Hernandez went yard in the fourth and eighth innings and Cavan Biggio homered in the seventh for his first hit of the series.

But the Nationals scored enough to hold them at bay. In between the Toronto dingers, Castro and Asdrúbal Cabrera teamed up for a run via back-to-back doubles and Trea Turner hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

Carter Kieboom started at third base for the second straight game and had a standout evening. The 22-year-old scored twice, and he now has an active streak of reaching base in six straight plate appearances dating back to Wednesday — a mixture of three singles and three full-count walks, which prompted Martinez to praise his plate discipline.

He also managed to catch Hernandez stealing — at second base, not third. Kieboom and the infielders were shifted right for an at-bat when Hernandez took off, and Kieboom caught a pristine throw from Suzuki to tag the runner out.

Before the game, Martinez said the Nationals continued to be cautious with Kieboom, the team’s top prospect entering 2020, who had a nagging groin issue that kept him from playing the field this season until Wednesday. But the original plan was for Kieboom to be the everyday third baseman in the absence of Anthony Rendon, and he’s now beginning to cement himself in the position.

“They always preach, as long as that runner takes a (left) turn after first base it doesn’t matter how he gets out,” Kieboom said. “That’s kind of made it simple for me, is don’t worry about so much fundamental stuff and play loose and play the game. It’s a fast one, and just be aggressive with it.”

Nationals pitcher Erick Fedde made his second start of the season in place of Stephen Strasburg, who is recovering from a nerve issue in his pitching hand. Fedde only lasted 3⅓ innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and two walks without recording a strikeout.

But thanks to the Nationals’ run support, they earned the win all the same. Ryu gave up five earned runs on nine hits and a walk in 4⅓ innings for Toronto. Daniel Hudson picked up his first save of the year.

The Nationals improved to 3-4 right before a strange four-day interruption of their schedule. Their weekend series against the Miami Marlins was postponed due to the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak that infected more than half the team’s 30-man roster and multiple coaches, and Monday was already a scheduled off day.

Though Thursday’s game was played in the District, Toronto was the designated home team once more, as Canada denied them use of their ballpark for the season during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means the Nationals technically won two “road games” after dropping the first two to Toronto at home.

“As far as I’m concerned, we won a road trip. We swept Toronto on the road,” Martinez laughed.

Home plate umpire Joe West was injured in the first inning when Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette let go of his bat during a swing and it struck West on the side of his face. Nationals trainer Paul Lessard tended to West, who experienced bleeding near his left ear.

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