Bryce Harper hit his 150th career home run. Giancarlo Stanton went yard in Nationals Park for the 17th time in 49 career games. Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer returned from neck spasms to put together an impressive seven-inning start. All the stars were out in the nation’s capital.
In the end, however, it was Adam Lind who came up with the game-winning hit, a two-out, two-strike grounder up the middle on an 0-2 changeup from Miami left-hander Jarlin Garcia that Lind sent to center to drive Wilmer Difo in from third after Difo had singled to start the Nats’ eighth and moved up on a sac bunt by Andrew Stevenson and a groundout by Brian Goodwin.
Lind’s single snapped an 0 for 15 stretch at the plate for the Nationals’ bench bat.
It was his fourth hit in 16 at bats against left-handed pitchers this season. Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked after the 3-2 win over the Marlins, about turning to Lind there even though there was a left-hander on the mound for Miami.
“This lefty throws predominantly fastballs,” Baker explained, “and Adam can hit that fastball, and so I was down to Adam and [Adrian] Sanchez and [Jose] Lobaton and so you have to go with the best option at that time because Howie [Kendrick] had come out because his back had tightened up on him so that’s why I went to Stevenson in a close game to make sure your defense is in there, and I was hoping that Lindy’s spot, which was the fourth spot that inning — I was hoping that Difo got on and then Stevenson can bunt him over, which he did, and then we still had two shots at trying to take the lead and drive in the run.”
Lind improved to 13 for 33 (.394/.444/.697) as a pinch hitter this season, and 51 for 170 (.300/.348/.512) overall on the year in his first season in Washington after signing a 1-year/$1.5M free agent deal with the Nationals in mid-February.
Lind’s 13 pinch hits are tied for third-most in the National League, behind only Rockies’ infielder Pat Valaika (14) and the Marlins’ Ichiro Suzuki (18). His 10 pinch hit RBIs are the second-most in the National League, behind only Valaika (11). His three pinch hit home runs in 2017 are tied for the most in the NL and already tied for the most in a career in Nationals’ history (2005-present).
Lind, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, talked after the game about making the most of the opportunities he gets when he’s called upon in a difficult role:
“I try not to overthink it,” Lind said. “I don’t know, I just go up there and I hit regardless, I want to give it my best effort no matter who’s out there, or what situation it is. Just do the best that I can.
“I just try to relax regardless of it’s the eight, the ninth, or the fifth, depending on the situation. Just relax, not let the situation get in my head and like have to get a hit. I have one at-bat out of the 27 outs, I’m just a small factor in the outcome of the game.”
He was a big factor in last night’s win, of course, and his manager was asked if he gives the Nationals something off the bench Baker hasn’t had at his disposal before this season.
“I had some pretty good ones last year,” Baker said. “I had [Stephen] Drew last year too, and Drew was awesome. I’d prefer to have both of them to tell you the truth but you know, every good team I’ve been on — playing and managing — I had good pinch hitters off the bench. This was one reason that we signed him, because I don’t know — his average pinch hitting, regardless what his batting average was for the year, his average pinch hitting I think was like .290 or pretty close to that.
“That’s the toughest job in baseball. You have to be mentally prepared and strong, and you get a lot of — especially in his situation — you get a lot of, ‘Wait, not right now,’ and you try to put him up there in a situation where he can drive in some runs, and invariably sometimes you end up with him on deck when the game ends, but I was just glad that Difo — him getting on base really created the entire inning.”
Difo, Stevenson, and Goodwin created the opportunity and Lind, once again, cashed it in, coming up with what ended up being the game-winning hit.