Even before Willie Harris stepped to the plate against Kyle Farnsworth to lead off the seventh inning on Friday night, he could see that everything was going right for the Nationals. Jordan Zimmermann had cruised through five innings, Adam Dunn had hit two home runs and the Nationals had a 6-1 lead by that point.
So when he smashed a Kyle Farnsworth fastball off the center field wall, and Nate McLouth lost track of it after slamming into the wall, should it have surprised Harris that it would bounce just right?
"To be honest with you, I didn't want to go," Harris said. "But when I saw (third-base coach) Pat (Listach) waving me, I'm like, 'Oh, my God, it's going to be a bang-bang play at the plate.'"
Harris rounded third base, and his stride visibly changed as his legs were flooded with fatigue. Visibly out of gas, he dove into home plate as Alex Gonzalez's throw pulled Brian McCann off home plate. He rose to his knees, clapped his hands twice and high-fived Ivan Rodriguez, having hit the second inside-the-park homer in Nationals history.
The shot, which put the Nationals up 7-1, joined Austin Kearns' inside-the-parker from May 12, 2007. It was Harris' 10th homer of the year, and it was even sweeter because of who it was against.
The utility player grew up in Cairo, Ga., and played for the Braves before signing with the Nationals in 2008. He knew that because the Nationals were playing the Braves, his mother, Geraldine Harris, and his grandmother, Elizabeth Hudson, would be watching.
Asked what his grandmother's reaction would be, Harris said, "'Oh, my God! My baby!' I know exactly what she said. I'll call her on the way home. I'm pretty sure she was excited. But she loves herself some Bobby Cox, though. She's a Bobby Cox fan. She tells me, 'Baby, I want you to do well, but I want the Braves to get to the postseason.' She's been a Braves fan for 60 years."
Harris said he, too, hopes Atlanta will reach the playoffs in Cox's final season. But the Nationals aren't helping things; they're 9-7 against the Braves this year.
"It's been fun playing against those guys. I know half the team," Harris said. "It's good to beat them, but you want to see Bobby Cox make it to the playoffs in his final year. But we also have a job to do over here on our side."
The full interview with Harris is here. It's worth listening to; the whole interview is pretty entertaining.