June 4, 2022 [LINK / comment]
Lane Thomas leads Nats to big win
With the Nationals in the midst of another tailspin into doom, somebody had to rise to the occasion, and that somebody was Lane Thomas! Who? Thomas was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for veteran pitcher Jon Lester late last July, after which he hit seven home runs and batted .270 for the Nationals. For the first two months this year he had hit just three homers, but yesterday he doubled that total, and now has six. He hit a a two-run homer in the third inning, putting the Nats ahead 4-2, followed by solo homers in the fifth and seventh innings. The Nats had an 8-2 lead until veteran Joey Votto hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, his second such feat in as many days. In the bottom of that inning Thomas had a chance to join the 18 major league players who have hit four home runs in one game, but his fly ball to center field fell short for an out. Final score: Nats 8, Reds 5. After losing four games in a row, that was a big boost to team morale.
As the following table shows, Thomas is in rare company among Nationals players who have hit three home runs in a single game. This first six names are (or were) all renowned sluggers, and some may end up in Cooperstown. Does this portend a bright future for this young would-be slugging star? I say yes! Thomas will turn 27 in August.
|Date||Player||Washington score||Opponent||Opponent score|
|Apr. 21, 2006||Alfonso Soriano||7||ATL||3|
|July 7, 2010||Adam Dunn||7||SD||6|
|May 29, 2013||Ryan Zimmerman||6||@ BAL||9|
|May 6, 2015||Bryce Harper||7||MIA||5|
|Apr. 30, 2017 *||Anthony Rendon||23||NYM||5|
|June 20, 2021||Kyle Schwarber||5||NYM||2|
|June 3, 2022||Lane Thomas||8||@ CIN||5|
It is striking that the Nationals scored about the same number of runs in almost all of those games, April 30, 2017 being the obvious exception. A modified version of the above table will soon be added to the Washington Nationals BIG moments page, which also features rare feats such as grand slams, complete-game shutouts, etc.
Blown lead in Cincy
In the fifth inning of this afternoon's game in Cincinnati, with the Nationals ahead 3-2, Jordan Weems came in to relieve starting pitcher Erick Fedde. Weems was called up from the minors on May 31, and pitched in the two games in which the Nats were shut out by the Mets -- in other words, games that the Nats were not expected to win. Today Weems promptly walked the bases loaded, then walked in a run, and then gave up a grand slam (to Albert Almora Jr.) that put the Reds ahead of the Nats, 7-3. Why put an untested rookie pitcher into a high-leverage situation like that? WHY??? It's not the first time that Nats' manager Davey Martinez has made an incomprehensible bullpen decision, and it won't be the last. After the big encouragement yesterday, the blown lead today puts the Nationals right back where they were, stuck in a discouraging rut.
[UPDATE: "After further review," it would appear that I was a bit hasty in my negative reaction to the five-run disaster in the fifth inning. Well, I had a social obligation to attend to, and felt compelled to render a judgment before all the facts were in. As most baseball fans know by now, Juan Soto hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning (his second HR of the game), Luis Garcia hit an RBI double in the eighth inning to tie the game, and then Maikel Franco and Luis Garcia combined for three more RBIs in the ninth inning to give the Nats a highly improbable 10-7 lead. Tanner Rainey gave up just one run in the bottom of the ninth and earned his seventh save of the year. That means that the Nationals are now ahead of the Reds at the tail end of the overall National League standings. I still think pulling Erick Fedde in the fifth inning and replacing him with Jordan Weems was a terrible decision, but nevertheless "I STAND CORRECTED!"]