If you’re a fan of the Washington Nationals, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions over the past few days. After losing three straight in DC to the visiting Boston Red Sox (aka the best team in baseball), the Nats found themselves one game under .500 with a record of 42-43 and seven games back from the NL East division lead. Reeling, the Nats had a team meeting in hopes of righting the ship before the Miami Marlins (36-52) came to town.
Things weren’t easy for Washington in their first matchup against the Marlins, falling behind 9-0 before scoring 14 unanswered runs (!!) and taking the first game of the series, 14-12. In game two, they found more ways to keep things interesting as they took a 2-2 tie into the 9th inning.
Enter Virginia baseball alums Sean Doolittle and Mark Reynolds.
Doolittle worked one inning of no run, no hit baseball against the Marlins, striking out one batter in the process. He needed just eight pitches to take care of the side, and was slated to lead off for the Nationals in the bottom of the 9th. Nats manager Davey Martinez needed a pinch hitter, selecting Reynolds off the bench.
Reynolds worked the count to 3-1 before doing this to the fifth pitch:
That’s a (Reynolds) wrap. pic.twitter.com/aEmoEHKXJG— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 7, 2018
A+ pun work, Nationals.
“Thought about pinch-hitting Michael (A. Taylor). He gets on, he can steal, but then what?” Martinez told the media after the game. “So I said, `Hey, we need somebody who can hit a home run right now and Mark is the perfect guy.”
The home run was Reynolds’s eighth of the season and the first walk-off home run for the Nationals this season. He is batting .257 on the season, and has played significant time at first base in the place of injured fellow Wahoo Ryan Zimmerman.
“If I’m up there and it’s 0-2, I’m obviously not looking to turn on something,” Reynolds said of the at bat. “I knew 3-0 I was going to take a hack and then (he) pretty much threw the same pitch 3-1 and I kind of got my timing a little bit.”
Reynolds and Zimmerman*, teammates at Virginia in 2004, have accounted for almost one third the Nationals’ franchise** walk-off home runs:
There have been 35 walk-off home runs in Nationals history. 11 of them came from two players who were in #UVA's infield in 2004.— Danny Neckel (@DNeckel19) July 7, 2018
Side note, of those 35 walk-off home runs (which doesn’t include stats from the Expos), Zimmerman has 10 of them. That’s incredible.
Doolittle has been one of the most dominant closers in the league this season with 22 saves in 23 save opportunities (96%). Only the New York Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman has more attempts with only one blown save (24 of 25 on the season). With his 29th straight appearance of at least one inning with no walks, Doolittle set an MLB record.
It’s always good to be a Wahoo, it was just especially good last night.