Wood, Crews team up to deliver Nats' first walk-off of spring

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It was the bottom of the ninth on March 21, with the remnants of a crowd of 2,915 watching and a Double-A left-hander pitching for a Twins team that barely brought any major leaguers across the state with them for today’s exhibition game.

The Nationals had already scored the tying run, thanks to James Wood’s leadoff homer. Now there were two outs, the winning run leading off second base in the form of Alex Call, and Dylan Crews standing in the batter’s box with a chance to be the hero.

Crews has been a part of much bigger moments on a baseball field than this in his young life. Shoot, he celebrated a College World Series title only nine months ago. That didn’t diminish the stakes at all in his mind today.

“I mean, the way you prepare every day, and the way you treat every game, it should be like it’s a regular season game,” the 22-year-old outfielder said. “Or Game 7 of the World Series.”

So while Crews’ celebration after he ripped the RBI single to center that sealed the Nats’ 9-8 walk-off win looked muted to everyone watching, it was anything but muted inside his mind and his heart.

“I didn’t know how we were celebrating it,” he said with a laugh. “I’m sure if it was a regular game, it would’ve been a lot more explosive reaction. But inside, I was exploding with excitement.”

On this, the fourth-to-last day of a spring defined by the presence and achievements of the organization’s top prospects, the Nationals saw their two highest ranked kids deliver with the game on the line.

Trailing 9-8, they began rallying as soon as the bottom of the ninth began. Wood led off the inning with his own impressive at-bat, waving helplessly at a first-pitch slider well out of the zone from Danny Bentley, then getting called for a check swing later in the at-bat against the Twins lefty.

“It started out kind of ugly,” the soft-spoken 21-year-old said with a sheepish grin. “He just threw a pitch that wasn’t really anywhere near the zone, and I swung right through it.”

No matter. Because when Bentley came back with another one of those sliders, seeking the strikeout, Wood stayed on it and lofted the ball high and deep to left field. It hung in the air for what felt like an eternity, then finally landed in the visitors’ bullpen, the fourth homer of his spring but his first in three weeks.

“I just felt good, especially going the other way,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been trying to get back to. I wasn’t trying to force it over there, but that’s the part of the field I really want to stay at. … It definitely felt good seeing that go out.”

Call followed Wood’s homer with a single to left, raising his spring training batting average to .414. Israel Pineda and Nasim Nuñez were unable to advance him, but Call got himself into scoring position by stealing second base.

That brought Crews to the plate with a chance to win it, not with power but with patience and precision. The 2023 first-round pick worked his way to a 3-1 count, then got a pitch over the plate from Bentley and drove it on a line over the shortstop’s head, jogging to first as Call sprinted around the bases in front of him to score the winning run.

“I was just looking for something up right there,” he said. “Really just seeing the changeup up, the fastball up, whatever it was. Not chasing low with a guy like that. It was awesome. It was a good memory, for sure.”

“I don’t want to say I kind of called it, but … I kind of did,” Wood said. “I was like, he’s going to get a changeup. He’s going to do something with it. And that’s kind of what happened. So I saw it coming.”

This was a welcome moment for Crews, who admittedly hasn’t enjoyed a dominant spring. He entered that at-bat just 4-for-30 with two doubles, a homer and 12 strikeouts. But facing the most significant moment he’s going to face in spring training, he showcased the poise that defined his entire amateur career.

“They’re not afraid of a big moment,” manager Davey Martinez said of the two prospects. “And they stay in the moment. Both of them were very calm, able to understand what they needed to do right there. And both did a great job.”

Williams takes unusual path to 90 pitches; Finnega...
Garrett playing in minor league games; Hassell tar...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/