The Nationals have searched for a few seasons for a pinch-hit bat that could come through in the clutch on a consistent basis. Several players have done a nice job of filling that role but none better than the work of veteran Adam Lind in 2017.
Lind was signed in the offseason and has been the best pinch-hit answer for the Nats in the short history.
So far in 2017, Lind has hit .306 in 107 games with 12 homers and 50 RBIs. As a pinch-hitter, he is hitting .364 with four homers, 13 RBIs in 47 games.
The four pinch-hit homers are a new Nats record for a season and a career. Nats fans have fond memories of a heavy list of former players who hit three pinch-hit homers over the course of a season since 2005: Chris Heisey, Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Willie Harris, Stephen Drew, Daryle Ward and Scott Hairston. None of those players hit better than Ward’s .292 for the season.
Lind did it again Sunday night, smacking a two-run homer in the eighth inning. His 12th homer of the season all but put away the Nats’ 7-1 win over the Dodgers.
Manager Dusty Baker has spoken many times this season about the importance of Lind.
“He has concentration. He stays in the game,” Baker said. “He works even during the game and I think the fact that he’s played quite a bit helps him to become a good pinch-hitter. He has an idea what he’s doing when he walks up there. You try not to go more than a few days in a row without giving him an at-bat. He’s been a God send this year to us. He’s done everything that we ask and more.”
Lind says he has been used to starting his last few seasons. He made 102 starts for Seattle last season. Even with injuries at first base and the outfield, Lind has made 56 starts this season.
“I mean it’s a new role in the amount of times that I’ve had to do it,” Lind said of pinch-hitting. “When you platoon like the career I’ve had the last few years, you pinch-hit a lot. It wasn’t something completely new to me. But the amount is a little bit newer.”
So if he doesn’t start, how does he prepare for those usually high-leverage appearances late in games?
“I go down in the fifth, top of the fifth or on the road bottom of the fifth,” he explained. “Usually go back in the dugout when we hit and then when were on defense I’m in the cage doing something.”
It is a plan that has worked. A role that is not easy to succeed in. Just ask starting first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
“He’s a weapon,” Zimmerman said. “It gives me some days off, too. And you don’t really lose anything because he comes in and has four or five great at-bats. Even when he doesn’t play for a week, it’s pretty amazing to be honest with you. For me, it’s the hardest thing in the sport, to be a bench guy or a pinch-hitter. They don’t get consistent at-bats and to come in and put together at-bats like he does, it’s been one of the more impressive things I’ve ever seen.”
It is a role that has a very good chance of playing a major role in the postseason. Need an example? Just look back at Heisey’s two-run shot that got the Nats back into Game 5 last year against the Dodgers. Lind will get those opportunities this postseason. He appears to be up to the task.
“I just know it’s nice to help the team win games and to tell you the secret to it, I don’t think there is a secret, I’m just trying to have a good at-bat,” Lind said. “Whether it’s the first inning with a start or two outs in the ninth.”