What does desperation look like? Moving a player with a 72 OPS-plus to the top of the lineup.
The Nationals are 26th in offensive fWAR and 22nd in runs scored. They have not pushed across a run since the top of the ninth inning on Monday in Philadelphia.
In an attempt to change the outcome -- and put someone in front of Trea Turner and Juan Soto -- Davey Martinez decided Adam Eaton should lead off Thursday in the series finale against Philadelphia.
“I talked to him last night,” Martinez said Thursday. “Want to see if we can get somebody up there to get something going there. Get us some runs. Trea and Juan have been carrying us for a while. Just trying to mix it up a little bit.”
Eaton spent most of his career in the American League leading off. He’s done so in 578 games. He’s hit second in 183 games, almost all with Washington.
It’s been a putrid season for Eaton. His WAR is -0.7, making him one of the league’s worst regular players. His OPS is a career-low .657. He’s struck out 26 times and walked nine. None of this suggests he should be moved to the top of the lineup.
However, the Nationals have little choice at this point. They are 12-22 entering Thursday afternoon’s game against Philadelphia. They are nine games out of first place in the National League East. They need a jolt, even if their attempt at one has to be rooted in a move that is counter to the downtrodden math.
Eaton and Martinez talked for an hour Wednesday night following the Nationals’ loss, in which Eaton went 2-for-4. Martinez advised him to relax. They watched some video of Eaton’s plate appearances. They discussed the lineup change. They will try it out Thursday.
Here’s the full lineup:
Adam Eaton (L) RF Trea Turner (SS Juan Soto (L) LF Asdrúbal Cabrera (S) 1B Kurt Suzuki C Brock Holt (L) 3B Eric Thames (L) DH Luis García (L) 2B Victor Robles CF
Aníbal Sánchez will pitch. Austin Voth and Wil Crowe will pitch in Friday’s doubleheader against the first-place Atlanta Braves.