Perhaps if other things had progressed in a different manner the rest of the night, Lane Thomas’ throw in the top of the fifth Wednesday would’ve carried more weight. In the end, the play had no bearing on the outcome of the Nationals’ game, a 6-2 loss to the Diamondbacks.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t feel significant in the moment, though. Or that it wasn’t noticed by everyone at Nationals Park.
When Corbin Carroll lined a hit to right to open the top of the fifth, Arizona looked like it was poised to start another rally against Patrick Corbin and perhaps cash in this time after being shut out since taking a quick 3-0 lead in the first. And when Thomas couldn’t cleanly field the ball on a hop, Carroll looked like he was destined for a leadoff double.
Until Thomas retrieved the ball and fired it toward second base, where CJ Abrams made a nice scoop and applied the tag to Carroll in time for the out.
It was a big play in what was a 3-2 game at that moment. And it was only the latest by Thomas, who has really come to his own in right field this season.
That was Thomas’ sixth assist, tied with Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. and Philadelphia’s Nick Castellanos for most among all National League outfielders.
“I think he’s improved a lot since he’s been here,” Corbin said. “He hits for power, hits for average, he’s a very smart defender out there. Seems to always hit the cutoff. Makes accurate throws. Just an overall total package. He’s been doing it all season for us.”
In the bigger picture, Thomas hasn’t rated especially high in the field this season. He entered play Wednesday with minus-2 Defensive Runs Saved, but that’s likely a product of a couple of balls lost in the sun early in the year and a couple of rough moments going back on drives at the wall.
Thomas’ arm has rated well all along, and that has been a boon for Nationals pitchers who have benefitted from it.
“When those guys are on the mound, they need your help to sometimes get them out of situations,” Thomas said. “We’re definitely ready for that.”
Hitters go through hot streaks and cold streaks at the plate. Does an outfielder experience the same ups and downs in the field, and does Thomas feel like he’s in the middle of a defensive hot streak right now?
“Yeah, I think if you throw well, you always feel good,” he said. “It’s just whether or not you’re physically there. You start throwing a lot, it starts to get sore. I’m just trying to maintain all that kind of stuff, make sure my body’s feeling good.”
It felt good Wednesday night. And nobody appreciated that more than the guy who was on the mound at the time.
“It’s fun to guys out there like that,” Corbin said. “I was joking with him: I’ll just give up singles to him all day, and hopefully they try to stretch it to a double. He’s been doing it all season.”