- The Washington Times
Monday, May 2, 2022

The Nationals traveled west last weekend under the cloud of an eight-game losing streak that was largely due to the club’s hitting woes. During the skid, the Nationals scraped together only 16 runs and were one of the worst offensive teams in the majors. 

The new time zone and sunny skies of San Francisco, though, seemed to serve as a reset for Washington’s struggling bats. The Nationals snapped their losing streak, won their second series of the season and scored 28 runs in three games against the Giants.

But it wasn’t superstar Juan Soto or slugger Josh Bell or even designated hitter Nelson Cruz who served as the star of Washington’s offensive outburst. It was center fielder Victor Robles who paved the way.

Robles, a former top prospect whose stock has tanked in recent years, dominated the Giants’ pitching in arguably the best series of his up-and-down six-year career. He tallied multiple hits in all three contests, including a four-hit performance in Washington’s 14-4 win on Friday. It was only the second four-hit game of Robles’ career. The first one came in September 2018 when he was 21.

Overall, Robles was 8-for-12 with five RBIs, four runs, two walks and a double in the series. 

“He’s swinging the bat better,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Saturday on MASN. “We worked with him in spring training, and it’s starting to click for him. It’s nice to see the results for him.”

Now in his age-25 season, Robles is in a make-or-break year with the Nationals (8-16). After his solid 2019 season in which he finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting, Robles has deteriorated at the plate.

In 2020, he hit just .220 and struck out once a game. Last year, he hit .203 with just two home runs in 107 games before being sent down to Triple-A. Since smashing 17 homers and stealing 28 bases as a rookie in 2019 to help the Nationals win a World Series title, Robles hit just five long balls and swiped 12 bags in the next two seasons combined. 

He started 2022 similar to how the previous two seasons ended — slumping. He hit .200 in spring training and then started the regular season 0-for-18 in his first eight games 

But since then, he’s smacked hits in nine of his last 13 games, hitting .375 with five doubles. Shorten the sample to April 21, he’s hitting .462 with four doubles and four multi-hit games. On the season, he’s now slashing .259/.317/.345, and his on-base plus slugging is right in line with the National League average. 

The overall numbers are far from impressive, especially for a player whose perceived ceiling was sky-high. Nevertheless, his recent performance is a vast improvement compared to his play in recent years and could be the start of a bounce-back season. 

Martinez hopes Robles’ hot streak can continue to boost the bottom of Washington’s lineup, as the Nationals’ skipper wants more runners on base for the heart of his order — Soto, Cruz and Bell. 

“If we can get the bottom of that order going and getting on base, it’s really going to help us a lot,” Martinez said on MASN. “We’ve got some good hitters at the top of the order. If they can get on base for those guys, we’ll score some runs.”

After a day off Monday, the Nationals begin a three-game series in Colorado on Tuesday at 8:40 p.m.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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