The Washington Nationals picked up an impressive 5-3, come-from-behind win over the Miami Marlins Friday night. Dusty Baker played an integral role in the victory — making all the right moves at key spots in the game.
Last season some of the Nationals’ struggles were attributed to poor management. Matt Williams made some questionable decisions about leaving starters in, or pulling them too early (see Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS) or just poor overall management of the bullpen. On Friday night Dusty Baker showed how having an experienced and confident manager can really help a team succeed.
In a game the Nationals really needed to to win to start off this four game set on the right note, Baker made some great moves.
The first outstanding decision was in the top of the sixth inning. After giving up three straight hits, Dusty went out and got his starter Gio Gonzalez. Gio did not seem too happy about the decision, but he had started to get hit hard, and his pitch count was at 106. Although Baker has been known to give his starters a long leash, Gonzalez was clearly tired and leaving the ball up in the zone,so it seemed to be the right call.
More from District on Deck
- Latest DraftKings Sportsbook Promo Code in Maryland: Bet $5, Win $200 Guaranteed
- Nationals Claim Jeter Downs Off Waivers
- Washington Nationals Minor League Spotlight: Robert Hassell III
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- 3 Free Agents the Nationals Should Gamble On
He then went to long reliever Yusmeiro Petit to face Adeiny Hechavarria. At first this seemed like sort of an odd move, especially if he was going to have Petit go long in the game with a doubleheader tomorrow, but Baker knew exactly what he was doing.
Petit made Baker’s move look good, striking out Hechavarria for a big first out. Baker then made another pitching change and brought in Oliver Perez to face lefty Derek Dietrich. Again, his pitcher made Dusty’s move look stellar, as Dietrich grounded into an inning ending double play, which proved to be a turning point in the game. After getting out of this inning and keeping it at only a two-run deficit, the Nationals stole the momentum in the game and kept it going in the next inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Dusty kept his great decision-making going. He called upon Stephen Drew to pinch hit, with a runner on first and two outs, and he delivered in a big way. Drew crushed a homer to right, his second of the year, keeping the momentum going in the Nats’ favor, and tying the score 2-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, Dusty made yet another great call. Baker went with Chris Heisey to pinch hit against the righty, instead of Clint Robinson. This seemed like a very interesting decision at first, because Robinson would have been the logical call to face the right-handed pitcher, but Heisey made Dusty’s move look great one more time. He launched a homer to left, extending the Nationals’ lead to 5-3 headed to the ninth.
The final outstanding move made by Baker came in the bottom of the ninth. After hitting the first batter and then getting a strikeout, Baker called on Jonathan Papelbon to replace Felipe Rivero with one out in the inning. Papelbon came in and slammed the door, recording the save and getting the Nats a key win in Game 1 of the series.
Although you could say it came down to the players’ performance, Baker made some great moves in this game and managed a team about as well as you can. Going with Heisey versus the righty when stats would say Robinson is the better match up took a lot of guts, but that is something the Nationals skipper sure does have.
For a manager who has been criticized over the years for his use of the bullpen and managing decisions, Baker sure looked like a genius Friday night.