Dusty Baker was writing Stephen Drew's name on the scorecard all week, but after Saturday night's game, he admitted it was in part to convince the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres that he had more options at his disposal than he really did.
Drew was dealing with flu-like symptoms that had kept him out of action since last Sunday's 18-inning marathon with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Before Wednesday afternoon's matchup with the Dodgers, Baker said it had been so bad the previous day that Drew was actually sent home. Drew was receiving IVs, but he was dehydrated and was having trouble keeping food down.
"We sent him home yesterday," Baker said, "and baseball usually doesn't do that unless you're real sick. Most of the time they tell you to go in there and lay down in the dark some place, but we sent him home yesterday."
Drew's first at bat in six days came in the bottom of the ninth inning last night, with the score tied at two, a runner on first and one down.
The 33-year-old bench bat, who signed a 1-year/$3M free agent deal with the Nationals this winter, reuniting with GM Mike Rizzo, who drafted him in the first round when Rizzo was the scouting director in Arizona, stepped in to face the Padres' right-hander Kevin Quackenbush and hit a hanging 1-2 curve to right and off the out-of-town scoreboard for a walk-of triple that lifted the Nationals to a 3-2 win.
"We don't know if it was a cold or not," Dusty Baker told reporters after the Nationals evened things up with the Padres.
"All we know is that he was super-sick and he took another IV today, took one yesterday and one the day before and took all he had to hit that [triple] and then run to [third]. It was right on time for us."
Anthony Rendon singled to start the Nats' half of the ninth and Danny Espinosa K'd swinging after failing to get a bunt down.
Baker took the opportunity to get Drew an at bat and the veteran infielder made the most of the chance.
"We had a softer throwing guy in Quackenbush and I didn't really want to use him, a guy who hadn't had at bats in three or four days," Baker explained.
"I didn't want to use him against [Jose] Dominguez throwing 99 mph, and that's why I sent [Chris] Heisey up there vs Drew.
"And plus Heisey has speed and he's been a great pinch hitter so, that was a situation where we just told ourselves, 'Just keep the ball off the ground.' When we didn't advance the runner from first, the next thing you just don't want a double play to wipe out the inning, so that was a great outcome."
Drew wasn't in back in the dark tonight, but Baker said he wasn't sure he was available either.
"He was on the bench a few innings tonight. Other than that, we had sent him home. He was home, not eating, couldn't hold any food. Think he lost 7-8 pounds, and so it was a little more than a cold. He's on the comeback trail, I'm sure this will make him feel better."
Drew improved to 6 for 20 (.300 AVG) as a pinch hitter this season and 27 for 103 (.262 AVG) overall n the year with eight doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 116 plate appearances.
Baker said Drew has had a tremendous impact coming off the Nationals' bench.
"In the beginning of Spring Training I didn't now," he admitted, "because he didn't look quite as good as he is now, and he's worked hard, he stays ready and we've missed him the last three days, because not only my bench was short, but we had to leave him on the scorecard as a decoy. So he's had a tremendous impact. He's played third, short, second, he's done everything that we've asked him to do and more."