Mike Rizzo praises Keibert Ruiz for hitting the ball hard with The Junkies


After splitting the six-game road trip, including three against a tough Dodgers team in Los Angeles, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo saw some positives to bring back to Nats Park for a six-game homestand.

"Starting to score more runs, show a little bit more power. The young pitching was great down when we played Kansas City," Rizzo said on Thursday during his weekly appearance with 106.7 The Fan's The Sports Junkies, which is presented exclusively by our partners at MainStreet Bank — Cheer Local. Bank Local. Put Our Team in Your Office.

"You gotta be happy for [Mackenzie] Gore and [Josiah] Gray and that group of guys for pitching the way they do and we see the escalation of where their stuff is going and the game they bring to the mound every five days, which is important to us," Washington's GM told the Junkies.

The Nats grabbed a 10-6 win on Wednesday in the series finale against the Dodgers in part thanks to Keibert Ruiz, the young catcher who came to D.C. in the trade that sent Trea Turner and Max Scherzer out west, including two homers that "no doubt" felt good.

"He's been hitting the ball extremely hard recently," Rizzo said, noting the 24-year-old has been "hitting into some bad luck" but he has been working with hitting coach Darnell Coles on maintaining his posture while he's hitting.

Ruiz's .297 expected batting average is in the top five percent of the big leagues this year and his .512 expected slugging percentage is in the top 15 percent, per Statcast.

"He's driving the ball much better and his at-bats have been great," Rizzo said. "You just gotta keep hitting 'em. And keep hitting 'em on the barrel and hope they drop for ya. And then you mix in a couple of cheapies to make up for the line drives that are caught. I think he's in that type of system right now where he's seeing the ball well, he's hitting the ball hard and now they're starting to fall a little bit.

"We like where he's at. He plays a tough position he plays every day and he's gotta care about the pitching side, the defensive side of the game, the running game, and then also worry about his offense. He's adjusting well."

With the Philadelphia Phillies coming to town this weekend and several familiar faces including Turner, Bryce Harper, and Kyle Schwarber, Rizzo said, "It will be nice to see 'em, also be nice to beat 'em."

Rizzo also discussed the progress of second baseman Luis Garcia (who has raised his OPS+ to 100 in the last 142 games after posting an 84 OPS+ in his first 110 career games) and the promotion of James Wood to Double-A.

"He's a good-looking prospect with a good head on his shoulder and a guy that we think is going to progress nicely," Rizzo said about Wood, the 20-year-old monster (6-foot-7) outfielder and Baseball America's No. 11 prospect.

Rizzo also talked about what he is doing for Lou Gehrig Day on Friday and how Nationals fans can get involved in helping fight ALS here.

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