With one out in the top of the sixth inning, down 4-1 after a one-hour-12-minute rain delay, Robles was playing rookie designated hitter Alec Bohm a bit shallow, near the right arch of the heart on the “DC” logo in center field.
The ball flew off Bohm’s bat and into the August air at Nationals Park, and Robles raced back toward the deepest part of the ballpark in left-center field, never taking his eyes off it.
“I thought the ball was going over his head. Man, he crushed it,” said Nationals Manager Davey Martinez after the game. “But he made an unbelievable play.”
Robles cut a sharp angle toward the 402-foot sign and caught up with the ball, just in time to leap with glove outstretched and pull it down in mid stride, momentum still taking him toward the fence.
“He understands. Before the ball is even hit, he knows the situation, and he knows what he wants to do. He figured that ball was deep, going over his head,” said Martinez.
Jean Segura, one of the game’s best baserunners, was also off from first base with the crack of the bat.
He had a front-row seat for Robles’ catch as he rounded second, reversed himself and headed back to first, then increased to top speed as he saw what was happening.
“The guy was going to be around the base there, or get close to the base,” Martinez continued. “So he turned and just fired the ball to first base.”
Robles came down in stride on the warning track, shuffled his feet to reverse direction, and after a deceptively brief pump, launched a throw toward Asdrubal Cabrera, covering first, 300 feet away. The ball got in well ahead of Segura, hitting Cabrera’s mitt on the fly, needing not so much as a stretch.
The Best Defensive CF in @MLB™ just put the "THROW" in VICTOR THROWBLES...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 26, 2020
...to turn the most spectacular double play we've ever seen.
(The throw went 288 feet on the fly.)@Victor__Robles // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/rudea3pcFV
“What a throw. All the way in the air,“ said Martinez. “Cabrera did a nice job deking the runner.”
You might see a leaping, running catch on any given night of major league highlights, along with a strong throw to catch a runner. This was two-fer from Robles, a catch and throw in the same play, one that might earn him a Gold Glove. The mind conjures comparisons to Bo Jackson at the left field fence cutting down Harold Reynolds trying to score from first; or Dave Parker nailing Brian Downing at the plate from deep right in the 1979 All-Star game.
“That’s something that you really don’t teach. It comes with instinct. And he has that,” said Martinez.
“There’s not many people in the world that can make that play, and I’m really glad he’s on our team and is roaming center field when I’m out there.” said starting pitcher Erick Fedde, who watched the play in the clubhouse.
The catch and throw were crown jewels of a game that featured three double plays from the Nationals, including twin killings to get Fedde out of the first two innings.
The Phillies benefited from four double plays, including two off the bat of Carter Kieboom.
Martinez said that even with Robles’ elite fielding skills, it’s his attitude that stands out.
“He’s still learning, but the one thing I know about him is that he loves to play the game.
“He’s all in every day. The days that I try to give him a day off, he fight me on it, but I love his attitude,” said Martinez.
“I always try to keep my focus on the game, have the right mindset,“ Robles said when he was asked if he thought double play right away after the catch.
“I knew we had a runner on first base, and in my mind the whole time, if I was able to make a play, I knew that I was going to turn around and try to make a throw to first base to double him up and when I read the runner I knew he was off enough for me to make the throw and that’s exactly what I did.”
Was he more impressed with the height or the distance of the throw?
“The most impressive thing for me was the fact that from that distance I was able to hit [Cabrera] on the chest.”