NEW YORK - Blake Treinen knows his biggest strength as a reliever: the ability to induce ground balls, often in key situations that demand a double play. So he knew why manager Dusty Baker summoned him with one out and two on in the bottom of the eighth inning last night, the Nationals clinging to a 3-1 lead over the Mets.
It’s one thing to know your job, though, and another thing to actually perform it. And Treinen performed to near-perfection, getting Juan Lagares to ground to second baseman Daniel Murphy, who flipped the ball to shortstop Danny Espinosa, who fired it to Clint Robinson for the much-needed, inning-ending double play.
“It was good for our team,” Treinen said. “It was a situation where they know that it plays to my strengths to get a ground ball. We had an opportunity where a double play gets us out of the inning, so I’ve been prepared for that this year. A lot of times this year, I feel like the groundball has been too soft and doesn’t get to the guy in time for the double play. But fortunately it worked out for us last night.”
It has worked out plenty of times this season for Treinen, who is tied with Brad Ziegler for the major league lead among relievers with 10 double plays induced. And his success rate is far better; he has faced fewer batters (141) than anyone else in the top-10 ranking.
The key for Treinen? Don’t try too hard to get double plays. Focus instead on throwing power sinkers down in the zone and let the pitch do the work for him.
“I’m not trying so much that I’m thinking: ‘I’ve got to throw this pitch to get a ground ball,’ ” he said. “But I also know what gets ground balls. You’ve got to be down in the zone. You can’t expect to get a ground ball if you’re up in the zone. So for me, what works well is throwing the two-seamer, trying to get it to bore in on righties. Really it wasn’t that great of a pitch, but it had a lot of late action on it, and it played to our advantage. Just a big, big, big out against a division rival.”
So big that the normally composed Treinen offered up an emphatic fist pump while yelling words of praise at Murphy and Espinosa as he came off the field.
“Sometimes emotions come out a little bit,” said the reliever, who made a point not to watch the replay afterward. “My wife texted me. I was like: ‘I’m pretty sure I just blacked out, I was so excited.’ “
The rest of the Nationals couldn’t help but notice Treinen’s out-of-character reaction to the play.
“That was great,” Baker said. “Our whole team had emotional outbursts. When you draw it up like that and a guy comes in and does his job and you turn a double play, that’s as excited as I’ve seen him. Boy, we really needed it.”