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What did Washington Nationals’ Luis García hit for his go-ahead homer against Tampa Bay? ‘A homer pitch!’

The rookie second baseman was actually looking for a first-pitch fastball and an efficient way to bring the automatic runner on second base home in the tenth inning

MLB: Washington Nationals at Tampa Bay Rays Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

As long as Luis García has been with the Washington Nationals, the team has prized a skill set that includes slick defense, consistent hitting ability, and excellent baserunning.

The rookie second baseman has not, however, been known for his power.

That could change after García broke a 2-2 tie, leading off the top of the tenth inning Wednesday with a 427-foot blast to right field that lifted the Nats to a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I asked him what kind of — ‘What was that pitch?’ “ manager Davey Martinez said after the game. “He responded, ‘That was a homer pitch.’ And I said, ‘That a boy.”

Before the at-bat, Martinez actually told García what to expect.

“I told him, ‘Be ready to hit that first-pitch fastball, and get on it,” said Martinez.

“He told me generally this is a situation to bunt the runner over, but I have confidence in you and in your swing,” said García.

The inning started with Carter Kieboom on second base, by virtue of a new rule for the 2020 season.

The Nats have already lost an extra-inning game where the other team successfully bunted the automatic baserunner to third and brought him home on a sacrifice fly.

García and Martinez, however, had an efficient way to bring Kieboom home.

“We had no intentions of bunting,” said Martinez.

“You get up there, and you’re trying to move the guy over, obviously, but I’ve said this before, when you’re on the road, you try to play just to score as many runs as possible.”

García jumped on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Nick Anderson, a 94-mph fastball, waist high, on the outer half of the plate. The youngest player in the majors this year at 20 seemed surprised by his own power, cutting short his follow through and stopping in his tracks to watch the ball rocket over the seats behind the right field fence at Tropicana Field and bang off an advertising display on the back wall.

“There was a lot of thoughts going through my head aside from being excited and happy,” said García. “Obviously there was a lot of excitement, but more than anything it was that.”

Kyle McGowin struck out the side in the tenth for his first save, and earned the win for closer Daniel Hudson, who had the Rays down to their final strike with a 2-1 lead when Brandon Lowe took him deep to send the game into extras.

“That stuff happens,” said Martinez on the fifth blown save for Hudson, who is now 2-2. “The fact that we come back and keep playing the game, like I said all along, we don’t quit.”

The home run was just García’s second of the 2020 season, and he had 12 in his three-year minor-league career, when he progressed from the Gulf Coast League to Class AA Harrisburg. To put those 12 homers into perspective, consider that García finished his minor league career with 13 triples and 51 doubles.

“Once he starts learning how to really get into his legs and use his legs, he’s got the potential to hit 15-20 home runs regularly, said Martinez.

“He’s a strong kid, but that’s something that he’s going to learn, I know he’s going to learn.”

Since his promotion on August 13th, after Starlin Castro broke his wrist, García has made himself a protegé of fellow Dominican Juan Soto, who in three seasons has developed into a Triple-Crown-caliber hitter with a veteran’s strike-zone awareness.

“We talk a lot about staying in the strike zone,” Martinez said of García. “He likes to go up there and just start swinging, but he’s getting better at understanding what his strike zone is.”

García’s teammates have also marveled at his physical development as well, as he matured from a once-lanky teenage prospect into a 6-2, 211-pound ballplayer with surprising lower-body strength.

“When he starts using his legs more consistently, you’ll see the more power.” Martinez said.

“Right now, I tell him right now, I want you to just focus on hitting the ball in the middle of the field.

“That’s who you are, you’re a doubles guy, and if you happen to get a hold of one, you’re going to hit it far, and that’s what he did today.”