I watched the play over and over. It was a play that won’t count in the box score or the stat sheet but one that tells me things will be different this year for the Nationals.
Josh Willingham versus Johan Santana with the bases juiced on Sunday in New York. Willingham launches a moon shot to center field that hits above the red line for a home run. During the live action, the umpires did not signal a home run so everyone kept on running.
Adam Dunn came down the line with Willy Taveras and Ian Desmond waiting at home plate, hollering for Dunn to get down. Rod Barajas took the errant throw and then had 6-6 and 275 pounds barreling down on him. The ball came loose as Dunn slammed into the catcher at home plate for the third run.
Barajas gets a lot of credit for collecting himself after the steamroll. He caught the retrieved ball and tagged out Willingham who slid into the plate.
The way the team reacted to this physical play was palpable to the viewers on MASN. You could hear the team cheering on and yelling for Dunn and the Hammer to make that play.
Now we all know the umpires went into the back and watched the video replay and made the correct call, grand slam, but this non-play will pay huge dividends for the Nats as the season continues on.
Going through battles like this pulls a team together, bonds them for a grueling and demanding schedule, and gets them ready for those long summer days and an eventual stretch drive.
Here is another play I keep going back to from the same game.
How about the whole K-Rod vs. Willie Harris hit by pitch stare down/bench clearing jog out the field at the end of the game?
One argument could be “Oh, they don’t respect the Nats, so K-Rod is just telling Willie he shouldn’t be chirping”.
The other argument, however, and the one I always go to, is the Mets are now sweating the Nats. That is as good a reason as any to justify that the Nats are now gaining some street credibility in the tough N.L. East.
No more easy outs with the Nats. They are a viable opponent. You can’t just get two out of three versus Washington just by showing up.
This is a good sign of progress for the Nats as any new pitcher or prospect: opponents are now noticing the Nats.