Game situation: top of the sixth and one away, the Nationals lead the Reds 3-0, pinch-hitter José Peraza walks with one out. Jesse Winker singles to center field.
Men on first and third. Right? Not so fast.
As this scenario played out in yesterday’s game, Nats center fielder Victor Robles picked up the ball in center field and fired a dart to third baseman Anthony Rendon, who made a diving tag to nail Peraza as he slid into third base.
Victor Robles had to go get a ball in the right-center gap, then whip a throw back the other way to 3B.-- Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) August 14, 2019
Arm strength: 97.3 mph.
It’s his second straight game with a 97+ mph OF assist. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/266vzMwyqw
Two outs. Nats starter Joe Ross walked Joey Votto but then managed to get Eugenio Suárez to ground out to end the threat. The lead remained intact, and the play was an important part of the Nats 3-1 win.
Nationals manager Davey Martinez watched the play in real time and was pleasantly surprised Robles could pull it off. And equally admired Rendon’s glove work as he finished the tag.
Martinez admitted he did not expect Robles and Rendon would get their man at third. “No, I really didn’t,” he said. “Both sides of the ball. Anthony was incredible. Really was. Victor has an incredible arm. When he started throwing to third, I was like, ‘Oh, boy.’ The play was unbelievable.”
Second baseman Brian Dozier had the best view of the throw as it flew by him and across the field.
“When you make those kind of throws, it’s ‘Wow, what a great throw,’” Dozier said. “But even better is when you’re moving left and right, especially when you’re going left as an outfielder and you have to come back toward third base, that’s really impressive, because that’s really all arm strength. He showed it off. Just as good as the throw was Rendon’s tag.”
Robles now has nine outfield assists on the season, which is a new Nats record. According to Nats PR, that is the most outfield assists by a center fielder in a single season in Nats history. Rick Ankiel had eight in 2011 and Michael A. Taylor had eight in 2017.
“I felt like he didn’t have good momentum around the bag, and I felt like I could throw him out,” Robles said.
“It’s definitely difficult, especially since my body’s moving in a different direction from the bag. And at times even dangerous to hurt yourself there. But I was able to do it.”
Way back when Robles began his career in the minors with high Single-A Potomac, team broadcasters talked about a similar throw from deep center field in Lynchburg that Robles almost pulled off.
The runner barely made it to the bag safely, but the play was an early signal that Robles believed he could make a throw from that far away to get a runner at third base.
“To be honest, when you’re not afraid to make plays, then good things happen,” Robles said via team interpreter Octavio Martinez. “And I’m definitely not afraid to make things happen.”
Robles said he does work on such throws in early batting practice too.
“I always try to work on my arm,” Robles said. “When I play long toss, I try to really stretch it out a little longer each time. So, it’s been helping me out a lot.
“I’ve always said that extra work makes the difference. It’s a big difference maker. I’ve been working hard towards it. And anything I can do to help the team out, I’ve been able to do so.”
Robles’ throw clocked in at 97.3 mph. His teammate and fellow Dominican Juan Soto joked that he would not want to face Robles if Robles ever decided to try his hand at pitching.
“For me, it’s a lot different from the mound,” Soto said. “Because you see (Gerardo) Parra, he throws 100 mph, and he can throw 92 mph and he can throw strikes. But I hope I don’t face him.
“In the Dominican we always try to be like everything with power, strength. So, throwing, hitting, running, everything with strength. When they throw, they throw to get you out.”
Robles is so good at defense that maybe a Gold Glove conversation should be considered. With an outfield assist two games in a row, Soto said his teammate can make a play like that seem commonplace.
“It’s amazing,” Soto said. “That’s (an) amazing throw. I feel really happy for him. That kind of arm you don’t see very often. But he’s really good.”