The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

CJ Abrams flexes his muscles as Nationals split doubleheader vs. Mets

Nationals 3, Mets 2; Mets 8, Nationals 2

CJ Abrams's homer was the difference for the Nationals in the completion of Saturday night's suspended game against the Mets. (Alex Brandon/AP)
6 min

From the moment the ball left CJ Abrams’s bat in the seventh inning, he knew he had given his team the lead. He walked slowly and took time to admire the ball as it carried toward the center field seats Sunday at Nationals Park. New York Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo joined him, eventually slowing down to watch once he knew there was no way he would track the ball down.

Abrams’s third homer of the season proved to be the go-ahead hit in the Nationals’ 3-2 victory in a game that served as the completion of Saturday’s contest that was suspended because of rain. Abrams hit the elevated cutter from Dominic Leone 411 feet into the seats.

“He’s been working hard to get his swing flatter through the zone more,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said of his young shortstop. “And laying off pitches and swinging at strikes. When he does that, he can hit the ball hard. We’ve seen it … If we can get him consistent that way, I’ve always said the pop is there. But we got to have that swing consistently through the zone as much as possible."

Abrams followed up his performance in the day’s second game, driving in the Nationals’ first run on an RBI double in the second inning. The ball nearly carried out of the park but bounced off the right field wall, and Washington led 1-0.

That lead lasted four innings, until the Mets scored eight runs in the fifth and eventually won, 8-2. Jake Irvin, who entered his third career start sporting a 0.84 ERA, struggled with command his third time through the order. The right-hander allowed three runs in the fifth and hit Pete Alonso to load the bases before he was pulled from the game. Mason Thompson entered, and five more runs followed.

People are counting on Dave Martinez. He knows it.

If there has been one knock on Irvin through his first three starts, it has been his inability to generate swings and misses. On Sunday, he got only six whiffs in 40 swings.

“I just made a couple pitches that, looking back on and in the moment, I wish I would have gone with something different,” Irvin said. “Not convicted totally in the pitch I was throwing, and at the end of the day, you can’t do that.”

Abrams went 2 for 4 in the second game, adding an RBI single in the eighth.

Sunday’s at-bats were encouraging signs for Abrams, who hasn’t hit for much power this year. He entered the day with four doubles, two triples and two homers. Abrams has been at his best this season when hitting balls low in the zone, while his kryptonite has been chases up in the zone. His chase rate is around 41.8 percent; Martinez has used 30 percent as a benchmark for where he wants his hitters to be.

“Been in the gym,” Abrams said with a laugh about his power. “Just keeping it simple, hitting my pitch. Not getting myself out, that’s the biggest thing. Probably just swinging at strikes.”

Abrams didn’t chase when he hit an RBI single in the fourth inning of the first game. He saw two balls well outside of the zone before taking a low fastball right on the edge for a called strike that could have gone either way. Then he stayed on top of the baseball to line a hit into right field to give Washington a 2-1 lead.

Play resumed Sunday after Saturday’s game was suspended following a nearly four-hour rain delay. Fans kept waiting at the park for the game to resume Saturday, and after the grounds crew removed the tarp just before 7 p.m., it seemed the game would take place. But the managers deemed the field not playable and the game was called a few minutes after 8:30.

Nationals’ game vs. Mets suspended after rain delay

On Sunday the situation was the same at the start — runners on second and third with one out in the third inning — but the conditions were different.

Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound instead of Trevor Williams. It was a sunny afternoon. There were no puddles popping up around players in the infield.

The Nationals clung to a 1-0 lead after Joey Meneses hit an RBI single in the first. Williams had allowed a double right before the delay to put runners on second and third. So there was Ramirez on Sunday — with fewer fans in attendance — trying to limit the damage Williams had left. Nimmo got the Mets on the board with a sacrifice fly on the first pitch Ramirez threw.

But Ramirez struck out Jeff McNeil to keep the game tied at 1. He had to put out his own fire in the fourth after allowing three straight singles, striking out Daniel Vogelbach before getting Luis Guillorme to pop out. Abrams’s RBI single came later that inning.

The Nationals carried the lead into the seventh inning when Martinez turned to Carl Edwards Jr., who earned the loss Friday after allowing a three-run single to Francisco Lindor. On Sunday, he allowed a pair of hits to put runners on second and third.

Martinez next turned to Hunter Harvey, who allowed a sacrifice fly to McNeil before getting Lindor to fly out to center. Abrams’s homer ensured the Nationals got their lead right back.

Harvey followed with a clean eighth before Kyle Finnegan entered for the ninth. Finnegan allowed two runners to reach but closed the door when Alex Call tracked down a flyball into the left-center gap. And many, many hours after the game began, it was finally over.

“Yeah, this was a gritty win for us, and I think that’s kind of been our identity so far this year,” Finnegan said. “You’re not going to put us away. We’re going to stick around even if it takes, what, 20 hours to get a win? … We’ve had a lot of these low-scoring, tight games, and to be able to come away with one today is huge for our confidence.”

Note: The Nationals selected Cory Abbott as their 27th man for the second game. Martinez said the team brought both Abbott and Joan Adon — who Martinez said would be the team’s 27th man Saturday night — to Washington, then chose Abbott after the first game. Abbott tossed two scoreless innings in the loss.