The outfield grass at Nationals Park hasn’t always looked pristine this summer, most notably after a couple of concerts that left much of center field a splotchy brown. But the field itself had held up well through it all, never once appearing to negatively impact play despite heat, rain, All-Star festivities and more.
But on Thursday night, two players in the Nationals-Mets game got their feet caught in the outfield turf, wound up creating massive divots and nearly injured themselves in the process.
From a distance, the field appeared to be a lush green. But as Adrian Sanchez and Dominic Smith found out, the color of the grass didn’t accurately reflect the stability of the grass.
“It rained all of last week, so I felt like it was a little soft out there,” Sanchez said via Nationals interpreter Octavio Martinez.
Sanchez was first to find out the hard way. When center fielder Victor Robles appeared to lose Jeff McNeil’s first-inning fly ball in the dusk, Sanchez had to try to make a tough catch running back from his position at second base. His foot wound up getting caught in the grass, and a huge chunk of it went flying, just as Sanchez and Robles collided.
Both players went down and were briefly stunned, though both were able to continue. A groundskeeper had to jog out there and replace the divot and attempt to smooth out the area.
“I did get a little scared, especially when my left foot plugged in a little bit,” Sanchez said. “But luckily it didn’t go into anything serious.”
Four innings later, Sanchez lined a ball to left field. Smith came charging in and made a sliding catch, but he too got caught in the turf and sent a big divot flying.
This was the Nationals’ first home game in a week, but it came a few days after the remnants of Hurricane Florence swept through the area.
“They said it was sandy, but when the game started, it didn’t look bad,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “But Sanchez does that, and their left fielder took a chunk out as well, and after that I’m like: What in the world? So tomorrow they’re going to have to go out there and assess what’s going on.”
Groundskeepers already were assessing the situation after the Mets’ 5-4, 12-inning win, spending a few minutes working on each location.
Martinez just hopes they’re able to improve conditions he’s rarely seen on a major league diamond.
“Honestly, in 1986 when the Mets clinched,” the former Cubs outfielder said. “The only time I’ve ever seen the field with chunks missing like that was the next day when fans ripped everything out.”