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Nationals outfielder Xavier Nady was hoping for the call Friday. Just like he was hoping for a call few months back when the Nationals called him to spring training.
With the team struggling to get anything off of Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, the door opened slightly when lefty and former Nationals' property Bill Bray was called on to pitch with one out in the bottom of the eighth and Cincinnati leading, 1-0.
Manager Davey Johnson had selected left-handed batter Chad Tracy to face Arroyo. When Reds manager Dusty Baker switched to Bray, Johnson switched to right-handed hitter Nady. In his 20th at-bat and sixth game this season, Nady smacked a home run to left and suddenly the Nationals were on the board, game tied, 1-1.
The hit helped keep the Nats alive. In the 13th, they won it, 2-1.
The strength of the bench and the ability to double switch has been something Johnson had hoped to be able to pull off when he was devising this year's roster in the latter stages of last season.
Xavier Nady talks with the Nats Xtra crew to talk about his game-tying pinch-hit home run in the Nats' 2-1 win
"It is no secret I love my bench this year compared to last year," Johnson said." It kind of mimics the whole ball club, I think the potential is there. Early on this year I think I have had more production from my bench than I did in three months I was here (last year). (Chad) Tracy's got some big hits for us. (Nady's) one tonight was a big hit. Even Lombo's got hits to help us win ball games.
"I think the whole ball club feels that we got some ammunition off the bench. I got great double switches where my offense won't miss a beat."
Nady anticipated the moves before they happened. He thought he had a chance to get in Friday.
"You always anticipate that you are going to have an opportunity to have that at-bat," Nady said. "I knew if we pinch-hit Chad Tracy there then maybe they would bring in the lefty and it would be my at-bat."
Nady's home run was driven to the left field wall where it looked like Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick had a shot. But then the ball went over the fence and into the Reds' bullpen. Nady wasn't sure it was gone until he saw it bounce.
"Not the way this ballpark is playing right now," Nady said. "I hit it good, I hit it high. But tell you the truth, I didn't have a clue."
But it comes back to the bench. With Brett Carroll designated for assignment, Mark DeRosa, Nady, Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and sometimes even Roger Bernadina will be called up to take on some big at-bats.
Nady likes the makeup of the non-starters.
"I think we have some guys that have been around for a while and have kind of done everything," Nady said. "DeRosa has been infield and outfield. Tracy has done a little bit of everything himself and played in Japan. You experience a lot and you go through a lot of ups and downs. In all, you hope it makes you a better player down the road and when you are thrown into situations like this you feel like you are more prepared."
Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth has been on several championship-caliber teams that had strong benches, how does this entry compare?
"We got a strong bench, there is no doubt," Werth said. "I think that was Davey's big thing this winter. He wanted to get a veteran bench. It was big to pick up Xavier late. He was just sitting at home. Here he is a couple of weeks later hitting home runs to get us where we need to be."
Nady remembers sitting at home, too. And now he's got another shot. He is still kind of surprised that spot opened up, but he is certainly glad to seize that chance.
"To tell you the truth, a lot of it came out of nowhere," Nady said when the Nationals called. "It has been pretty wild. I came into camp and I didn't anticipate I was going to play like this. I am happy to be here. It is a wonderful organization and a good group of guys."