Yesterday, Dusty Baker did the right thing by giving some of the younger players on the Washington Nationals a chance to play and they delivered
All season long, the Washington Nationals have dealt with their fair share of injuries to key players such as Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, and Adam Eaton. Yesterday, in the team’s 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies that ended up being a division-clinching win, Dusty Baker allowed some of the players a chance to start on the big stage.
Over the weekend, Baker told the media how he wanted to start all of his younger players. While the lineup looked more like the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs with the exception of Trea Turner and Adam Lind, he viewed it as a reward for all of the contributions the younger players have had on this year’s team
Yes, the Washington Nationals aren’t even close to having the best farm system in baseball. With that being said, they have discovered some hidden depth throughout the season that has been key to the team. Plus, those players come up to the big leagues and do a great job at grinding out at-bats and making the opposing pitcher work for every out.
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The first run of yesterday’s game came off the bat of Adrian Sanchez when he drove in Trea Turner with a RBI double. One of Sanchez’s best at-bats of the year came on July 1 against the Cardinals when he saw nine pitches from Trevor Rosenthal and struck out on a controversial third strike.
Sanchez’s best play of the day yesterday was defensively in the eighth when he started that 5-4-3 double play. His infield versatility allowed Baker to give Anthony Rendon a day off and it got Stephen Strasburg as pumped as Nats fans have seen him in a long time.
Then, there’s Victor Robles. It would’ve been great to see Robles hit behind Turner yesterday, but he was in the fifth spot and had a RBI triple for his big league hit. Yes, he slid past the bag and was called out, but the whole world got the chance to see the elite speed that the 20-year-old has.
Baker has shown he’s a player’s manager and yesterday was a perfect example of giving everyone on the roster a chance to play. It was also perfect because some of the starters had faced Phillies starter Ben Lively when he was at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Rafael Bautista was 3-for-3 against him at Syracuse this year, but went 0-for-3 yesterday.
Without the contributions from these rookies, this team isn’t 33 games over .500 with an outside shot at winning 100 games this season. Sometimes, it’s the little things that can help win games. For example, Andrew Stevenson had a game-winning catch in left field against Miami last month and Wilmer Difo has stepped up in the number two spot in the lineup all year.
As most of the players said yesterday during the postgame celebration, you have to give a lot of credit to the Nats front office for their ability to develop their players in the minor leagues. Not every player is going to have success right away, but as seen with Brian Goodwin this year, you never know when it is going to instantly click for a player.
When the postseason starts, it will be mainly the veterans in the lineup that will be relied upon to bring the Washington Nationals a World Series title. But, for one day, the rookies got to be on the big stage and join in on the celebration of a division title. It will be an experience those young players will never forget.