Victor Robles powers the Nationals to victory to open a doubleheader

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It had been almost 10 months since Victor Robles hit a home run, so he made sure he had the perfect view.

As the ball left his bat in the fourth inning of the Washington Nationals’ 13-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies to open a doubleheader Saturday, he walked backward down the first base line, allowing him to marvel at his blast. As the ball curved inside the left field foul pole, his backward walk turned into a backward skip, and then the center fielder flipped his bat before trekking around the bases.

“For there to be a lot of home runs, you have to hit the first one first,” he said through an interpreter. “I’m very happy today I hit the first one, so hopefully many more to come.”

Robles turned around a 1-2 curveball for a three-run homer, which accounted for half of his six RBI on the day. It was the No. 8 hitter’s first home run of the season — and his first since Aug. 4, when he blasted one against Philadelphia.

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A three-run moonshot against Aaron Sanchez by the Rockies’ C.J. Cron put the Nationals in a first-inning hole, but Washington responded in the bottom half. A two-run single by Nelson Cruz cut the deficit to one, and three batters later the bases were loaded with two outs for Robles. He worked a full count against the Rockies’ Austin Gomber before pulling a single into left field to push the Nationals ahead 4-3. An Alcides Escobar single drove in another run.

The Nationals chased Gomber after 1⅓ innings. Maikel Franco’s double against reliever Ashton Goudeau brought home two runs, and Robles singled again to score Josh Bell and make it 8-4.

Sanchez continued to struggle, exiting after 3⅔ innings. Colorado cut its deficit to 8-7 in the fourth, but Robles’s homer gave the Nationals’ bullpen some breathing room.

He finished 3 for 4 to boost his batting average to .248 but was hit on the left elbow by a pitch in the sixth inning. Manager Dave Martinez said afterward that he was stiff, but he remained in the game and was slated to be in the lineup for the day’s second game.

“I believe in myself and in the work I’ve put in,” Robles said. “I know the results will be there eventually and I just got to keep grinding.”

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It has been a journey at the plate in his six-year career, and this season has been no different. Robles, 25, started 0 for 18 with seven strikeouts as he worked through swing adjustments with hitting coach Darnell Coles. He recorded his first hit April 17 at Pittsburgh, beginning a 13-game stretch when he went 15 for 40 and raised his average to .259. But that had tumbled to .228 entering Saturday.

“It’s him putting in the time, putting in the work with [Coles] every day, and he’s swinging a lot better,” Martinez said. “We’re trying to get him not to chase and stay in the zone. He did really well today. He took some really tough pitches and he laid off them, which is great.”

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The Nationals had 14 hits, and all nine batters reached base — helping the team overcome another rough outing by Sanchez. He allowed seven earned runs, bringing his ERA to 8.33 in seven starts. With Stephen Strasburg slated to make his second rehab start for the Fredericksburg Nationals on Sunday as he inches closer to a major league return, Sanchez remains at risk of losing his spot in the rotation.

Whom did the Nationals bring up for the doubleheader? Washington called up right-handed reliever Andres Machado from Class AAA Rochester to fill the 27th roster spot. Machado has a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings, but Martinez has struggled to find situations to use the 29-year-old. He was optioned May 10 in favor of Carl Edwards Jr.

What’s next for Carter Kieboom? The infielder had season-ending Tommy John surgery Friday, and Martinez said it went well. He added that he believes Kieboom will be ready for 2023 spring training as long as his recovery goes as planned. The 24-year-old had been dealing with an elbow issue since March and did not play this season.

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