In the sixth inning, on a sharp drive by Isaac Galloway, Robles collided with the wall and the ball bounced out of his glove for a double.
One batter later, Robles made the catch on another screaming drive to deep center field off the bat of Curtis Granderson. But Robles crashed into the wall and went down in a daze.
By the time he was able to gather himself, the Marlins’ Rosell Herrera scored all the way from second base on the sacrifice fly.
Robles was tended to by the training staff and manager Davey Martinez after the play, but stayed in the game.
Right fielder Adam Eaton had the best look at what happened to Robles.
“He did a heck of a job. It’s amazing how fast you can go and still have a cognitive thought of where the wall is,” Eaton said. “Even with that, he knows exactly how many steps he has on the track, how far he needs to leap and to run into the wall. It’s pretty incredible what outfielders can do at the big league level. They make it look way easier than it actually is.”
Martinez, a former outfielder, understands what can happen to a player when he collides with the outfield wall and was glad that Robles wasn’t injured.
“When you hit the wall that hard, you always tend to, especially me, you say, ‘Oh, boy.’ But he’s a strong kid,” said Martinez. “He’s a brick. He really is. Sometimes you worry about the wall. That’s how strong the kid is. He said he went and sat in the Jacuzzi and felt good. He’s ready to go.”
On the second play, Robles made the catch, but then had to collect himself before getting up and firing the ball into the infield. Eaton knows from experience what that moment is like.
“That’s happened to me before where I hit and you’re kind of dazed for a second, it kind of knocks it out of you,” Eaton said. “And then you kind of take a half-second (but) it seems like more than a half-second. The game happens so fast that you think, ‘Whew, I got to get the ball back in.’ You kind of almost take inventory, so to speak, at the time. It’s the human element, taking inventory, making sure all your body parts are still there.”
Martinez said the Nationals certainly don’t want Robles to hurt himself, but part of what makes him so good is he is not afraid and will go after the ball even if it means running into the wall. He just has to learn not to run straight into the wall but to roll up on it instead.
“There are certain situations, like a point in the game,” Martinez said of deciding when to make a play versus the wall. “But a kid like him, you just got to let him play. The minute you tell him not to do something, that’s typically when you end up hurting the kid. I just like for him to go out there and play and hopefully he can avoid running into the wall 100 mph.”
That is why Saturday’s plays by Robles in the outfield are so fascinating. The two plays - one where he drops the ball and the next where he makes the catch- happened in a span of three batters. Robles got better with each chance.
“Experience is huge,” said Eaton. “Everything in the outfield is experience. You got adrenaline running, you got things going on you don’t usually have in spring training, a sunny Florida day and all of a sudden, it’s windy. It’s a different circumstance. In Florida, it’s windier than all get-out.
“That’s why we play so many games, so you can have those experiences and as the season goes on, less shocks you and less surprises you. The experiences of good players allow it to evolve your game and make you smarter. You are better for it in the end. Just like everything else he will take it and store it in the old memory bank and be better for it.”
Eaton said Robles is learning from those moments, not just game by game, but play by play.
“That’s why he is so impressive,” Eaton said. “And what’s so crazy is he will do it from a day-to-day standpoint. If it comes up today, he will be more efficient than he was, which is amazing.”
Martinez said Robles has incredible athletic ability and is also unafraid and serious about getting better at his craft. He dove for the ball last year at Triple-A Syracuse and unfortunately got hurt. But he battled back this season and now goes after it with that same vigor.
“Obviously, he loves to play the game,” Martinez said. “Tons of energy. If you watch in our dugout, he’s always dancing, singing, talking. But he pays attention to detail. (Saturday), he laid down a beautiful bunt to get on base. He does the little things. He just wants to help us win in any way possible.
“He’s a young player that’s still learning, wants to learn, always asking questions, which is nice. I love watching him play. His teammates love having him around because he keeps everybody loose.”
* Here’s more from Eaton on Sunday’s roof issue. Marlins management appears determined to have the roof open more to change the feeling fans get at the stadium. Unfortunately, this made the playing conditions dangerous for the players because the sun and shadows bisected the mound and home plate. Eaton described the ball disappearing as it came into the catcher’s mitt at 96 mph.
I took this today. I actually had a feeling it may come up. Weird. As a fan, on a day like this ? I want that roof open. Right ? pic.twitter.com/RhGmvYoWLs-- Craig Mish (@CraigMish) April 21, 2019
“It’s like you standing in a closet about 10-foot deep and someone throwing a baseball in there,” Eaton said. “It’s like you see it and then all of sudden it disappears. And then when it’s completely dark and then the hitter’s eye starts to lighten up, it really gets scary. Because you got a light hitter’s eye and the pitcher ... the ball’s dark when it comes through all the way to you. So it makes it even worse.
“I went through all the phases of not being able to see the baseball. You could tell how some guys were swinging the bat today it was very difficult. I hope they listen to the players and make an adjustment.”
Martinez had a similar viewpoint from his spot on the bench: “The shadow was tough. It was tough for a manager, too. I was panicking in the dugout a little bit.”
Eaton said Marlins players agreed with him that the shadows created difficulty seeing the baseball. Hopefully, they will make the Marlins management aware and the roof will be closed for sun-splashed day games.
* Right-hander Max Scherzer tweaked his left intercostal as he tried to avoid a foul ball that came into the dugout. He said he hopes he will be better in a day or two. He is not scheduled to pitch again until the Nats return home Friday night against the Padres.