CHICAGO - Around 2:50 p.m. Central time, Chad Tracy - he of the .235 batting average and one home run in Japan last year - was trending on Twitter.
Not just in the Washington, D.C., area. Nationwide.
Tracy’s reaction to the fact that likely tens of thousands of people were sending out messages about him on the popular social media platform?
“Oh really? That’s good to know,” he said, a smile creeping across his face.
Twitter might not really be Tracy’s thing, but delivering clutch hits in the late innings sure appears to be.
The 31-year-old left-handed hitter, who barely secured one of the Nationals’ final roster spots coming out of spring training, has come through with two big hits in as many games for the Nats. He set up the game-winning run with a ninth inning double two days ago, and then singled to right in the eighth inning today, scoring two runs which gave the Nats a 5-4 lead.
Today’s big hit came after he fell behind Cubs closer Carlos Marmol 0-2. Tracy stayed alive by fouling off a couple pitches, and then got a good piece of a fastball away and slapped a ground ball through the right side for the game-winning RBI.
“Marmol’s a tough pitcher,” Tracy said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of success off him, but he stayed hard with me today. I think he only threw me one slider. He stayed fastballs away and I just battled to get something that I could drive.”
Being a pinch hitter requires a totally different mindset than coming to the plate when you’ve already gotten a few at-bats in a game. Tracy said he has more than 100 at-bats of experience as a pinch hitter in his career, so he’s familiar with what it takes to succeed in that role.
He learned how to prepare as a pinch hitter from former Diamondbacks teammate Tony Clark, who used to sit with Tracy as the two worked through the game trying to see things from a manager’s perspective.
“Tony and I, we would sit on the bench and try to almost manage the game as a manager - figuring out where we might hit, where we might go in, double switches - so it’s one of those things where I’m trying to think with Davey (Johnson) and figure out where I’m going to be slotted in to pinch hit,” Tracy said. “Right there, I knew it was my spot. ... I knew that was going to be my at-bat and I played it through my head before I go up there and just try to stay positive and aggressive.
“I think as soon as you can get a pitch that you can drive, no matter what you’re looking for, you’ve got to try to drive it. You can’t wait on him to get to his nasty stuff because you have one at-bat. You’re not really trying to feel him out.”
There’s no way Tracy envisioned being such a major part of the Nationals’ first two games of the season. It would’ve been hard to predict the way his 2012 season has begun. But he says he hopes to keep the ride going by working hard and being prepared whenever his name is called.
“You can’t really draw it up like that, but it’s been great,” Tracy said. “I’ve just tried to keep myself ready on the bench and the opportunities will come.”
“We’re glad to have him,” Tracy’s fellow first baseman, Adam LaRoche, said. “I’m glad he had the spring he did. If he didn’t, you never know what could have happened. It’s good to have him on the club. He’s going to be a big part of this.”