Nationals treasure: Adams ‘great teammate’ for Washington

PITTSBURGH — On paper, the Washington Nationals are the prohibitive favorites to repeat as the National League East Division champions this season.

They’re also considered, by many baseball experts, to be a World Series contender.

So far in the 2018 Major League Baseball season, however, the Nationals haven’t lived up to their advance billing.

Saddled by injuries to key players for much of this season, Washington entered Tuesday night’s game with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park with a .500 record, and sat in third place in the division, 5 1/2 games behind two upstart teams, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, who were tied for the lead.

But Philipsburg native Matt Adams, who signed a free-agent, one-year, four million-dollar contract with the Nationals last offseason, is thrilled to be a member of the Nationals roster, and he believes that the competition with the Phillies and Braves will be good for the Washington club.

“I’m really excited and happy to be a part of this team,” Adams, 29, said Monday at PNC Park. “It’s a powerful team.

“It’s an exciting division,” Adams said of the NL East. “We’re excited that we’re in it. It (the competition) is going to make us better. We get to play meaningful games the rest of the season, and we’re ready for it.”

Adams, a 2006 Philipsburg-Osceola High School graduate who saw playing time at first base and left field in 62 of Washington’s first 90 games this season, has made some solid offensive contributions. Going into Tuesday night, he was batting .291 with 50 hits in 172 bats, 13 home runs, 36 RBIs, and eight doubles.

That is coming off a 2017 season in which he split time with St. Louis and Atlanta, hitting a career-high 20 homers and driving in 65 runs.

“I’ve just been trusting in myself, developing a routine that works, and sticking to that and not veering from that,” said the 6-3, 245-pound Adams, who bats left and throws right. “I show up at the ballpark ready to do whatever they ask me to do. That’s kind of the way that I treat it.”

So far, that philosophy has been working very well.

“He’s been awesome,” Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy said of Adams, who broke into the major leagues with St. Louis back in 2012 and played parts of six seasons with the Cardinals before being traded to Atlanta last year. “Competing against him for six or seven years, I got to watch Matt play, and now, to be able to play on the same team with him has been awesome.

“He’s been really good for us on both sides of the ball,” Murphy said. “He’s a great teammate. He comes to the ballpark ready to work, he’s been really encouraging of his teammates, and his numbers speak for themselves.”

Outfielder Bryce Harper, who, at the age of 25 recently earned his sixth selection in the MLB All-Star Game, also lauded Adams and his contributions.

“He’s a great teammate, a lot of fun to be around, and of course, he’s having a great year,” Harper said. “Playing wherever we need him, hitting wherever we need him, he’s doing a great job for us. He’s been a huge part of this team.”

Adams missed almost three weeks with a broken left index finger after being hit by a pitch by Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez June 15, but returned to the lineup in a big way last Thursday, tying a career-high with four hits in a game against the Miami Marlins.

“It’s only been (a few) weeks out, so it’s still got some time to heal,” Adams, who played collegiate baseball at Slippery Rock University, said of his broken finger. “But it’s at a stage now where it’s tolerable to go out and play.”

Adams’ commitment to excellence included his dropping 35 pounds prior to the 2017 season.

“I lost 35 pounds and 10 or so percent body fat,” Adams said. “I’ve been able to be more athletic out on the field, have a little bit more range defensively whether I’m in left field or at first base, and it’s made me a little bit healthier also.”

Although his parents, Jamie and Lisa, still live in the Philipsburg area, Adams has made St. Louis his permanent home. He still enjoys returning to Philipsburg for the holidays, however.

“I’ve developed a home base in St. Louis, and this will be my third year living there,” Adams said. “I miss my family and friends but I’m still able to get back for the holidays, then get back to work and stay focused on what I need to get done.”

The Adams file

Age: 29.

Height, weight: 6-3, 245.

Bats: Left. Throws: Right.

Position: First base/left field.

Season update: Entering Tuesday night’s game, Adams was batting .291 after signing a free-agent, one-year contract with the Washington Nationals. He had hit 13 home runs and driven in 36 runs.

Career best: Adams split time with the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves in 2017, slugging 20 home runs and driving in 65 runs.

Residence: Adams graduated from Philipsburg-Osceola High School in 2006 and currently lives in St. Louis. His parents still reside in the Philipsburg area.