Through the legs, 6-5, and Davey Johnson.
The Washington Nationals are trailing the Atlanta Braves 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th in game 1 of a doubleheader on Tuesday. A Wilson Ramos infield single surrounded by 2 walks, and followed by a Chad Tracy groundout that scored Adam LaRoche, gave the Nationalsthe tying run on 3rd and the winning run on 2nd. In the midst of a 27 game hit streak, Denard Span steps to the plate and hits a Craig Kimbrel 98 mph fastball up the middle which goes through shortstop Andrelton Simmons’legs into centerfield, scoring Jeff Kobernus and AnthonyRendon to give the Nats a 6-5 walk-off win.
Rewind 26 years, 10 months, and 24 days to October 25, 1986. After a wild pitch to tie the game, MookieWilson faced a 2-2 count with the Game 6-winning run on 2nd base. Mookie slaps a ground ball up the first base line – and enter Bill Buckner. The ball rolls through his legs allowing Ray Knight to score giving the Mets a 6-5 win before they went on to win Game 7 the following night.
I am in no way claiming a regular season win has the same impact of a Game 6 win in the World Series, nor am I claiming that Andrelton Simmons is this generations Bill Buckner, but there are a few similarities. The biggest similarity is obvious – the game winning run scored on a play where the ball went between the fielder’s legs which capped off a come from behind victory for both teams. The second similarity is the score of both games; 6-5…that’s it, numbers don’t lie. The last thing these two games have in common is Davey Johnson, the skipper of the ’86 Mets and the current manager of the Nationals. Knowing the type of manager Davey is, I’m not sure he did anything special that night back in 1986, or on Tuesday, but the fact he was in the dugout as the leader for both teams has to mean something. Maybe he goes into the hallway behind the bench and does some top secret jig that makes these things happen, who knows; but whatever he does it seems to work when it matters most.
The Nationals victory on Tuesday afternoon was the first home win this season against the Braves in 7 tries, and could possibly prove to be more important than most people think. The Nationals were finally at a point in the season where all the bounces were going their way; they were finally able to pair up good hitting with good pitching on a consistent basis and most importantly, they were winning. Then, all of a sudden Tyler Clippard gives up a 2 run homer to give the Braves the lead in the 8th and you know heading into the 9th that Atlanta’s closer, CraigKimbrell would be on the mound. Kimbrell hadn’t allowed 2 runs in one inning since May 7th and has never given up 3 runs in one inning prior to Tuesday afternoon. If the Natslose by a blown lead late in the game, the momentum they have had the last month or so may have gone down the toilet. This isn’t to say the Nationals are not able to bounce back from a loss, but another home defeat to the Braves immediately followed by the second game of the doubleheader could have proven to be tragic for this team. To make the playoffs, the Nats have to be close to perfect the rest of the season and also need some help from other teams (it is a bonus that the Reds and Pirates are playing each other, as somebody has to win those games), but if they do get there, maybe this was their defining moment. Then we can all remember – through the legs, 6-5, and Davey Johnson.
Morey J. Rollins