Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Lorenzo Cain was 4 for 4 in stolen base attempts this season before Yan Gomes threw him out trying to steal second base early in Saturday night’s game in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park.
Gomes made a second strong throw on an Avisaíl García attempt later on in the game, on a play that was close enough it was reviewed, but the call was upheld, and García was ruled safe.
Those were the only two attempts on Gomes in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
The Nationals’ 33-year-old catcher finished the night 10 for 22 throwing out would-be base stealers this season, (45% CS%), up from 18% last year, and career mark of 34% and Gomes started the day on Sunday with the best CS% in the NL, and the second best in majors, with only Houston Astros’ catcher Martín Maldonado (7 for 14, 50% CS%) ahead of him so far in 2021.
“He worked diligently with Henry [Blanco] to get better at throwing,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters on Sunday morning, detailing the work Gomes did in their Spring Training home in West Palm Beach with the current Bullpen Coach and former big league backstop.
“It’s all about his footwork,” Martinez explained. “He’s getting rid of the ball really, really quick and getting a lot on his throws, and like I said, he worked a lot this spring on doing that and getting in a better position to throw. But I mean, he’s got a great arm, Henry just happened to adjust the way he sets up when guys are on base, so he’s doing well.”
Jon Lester, who was on the mound for each of the attempts by the Brewers on Saturday, said he definitely appreciates what Gomes brings in terms of helping control opposing team’s running games.
“It’s huge,” Lester said. “Especially against a team like that that likes to run, that’s an athletic team. They, I don’t want to say they’re reckless because they’re not, but they sometimes, kind of get out there and steal bases with a reckless abandon. So it’s nice to — Yan put a great throw on Lorenzo there, barely missed Urías I think was the other one that stole, so yeah, any time you have a guy back there, him and [Alex Avila] have done a great job of that, and if we can mix up our looks and mix up our times, and give those guys a chance, that kind of combats that side of the game.”
Avila was 2 for 5 (40% CS%) heading into play on Sunday, in a small sample size as a backup catcher.
Martinez said he thought Lester and the Nationals’ other pitchers too have worked hard to do their part in handling baserunners after the club made it a focus this spring.
“It was one of our goals this spring to get our pitchers to be a little bit quicker,” Martinez said, “... to have different holds, not do the same thing over and over again, as you know, you know there’s a lot of video, a lot of different things that everybody looks at this day and age, so we want to mix it up and our pitchers have done a great job in doing that.”