Pinch hitter, closer shine in new roles.
Lind, Treinen shine in new roles in first win of season
The slender middle shelf in Adam Lind’s locker houses innocuous things. There is deodorant, a few papers, and an inviting slot to toss a cellphone.
Added Monday afternoon was a baseball encased in a plastic square. About 45 minutes earlier, Lind had hit that ball into the center field stands for a go-ahead, tension-breaking two-run home run. He howled when turning first base. Those in a sold-out Nationals Park whooped, relieved, as Lind slammed high-fives back in the dugout. The crowd reached with their voices for Lind to emerge from the dugout for further love. Daniel Murphy directed him to do so. Up the steps went Lind, who thrust his right arm in the air.
Six weeks before his go-ahead home run helped Washington to a 4-2 win over the Miami Marlins on Opening Day, Lind was out of a job. He waited at home with his family, hoping someone would call to pick up a left-handed bat that had hit at least 20 home runs in five separate seasons. Finally, Lind and his extended chin hair arrived in West Palm Beach, filled a back locker with other veterans who had varying chances of sticking around and became competition for the left-handed pinch-hitting role.
Lind hit 20 home runs in just 401 at-bats last season for Seattle. That, he
contended in the spring showed he still had power. He just needed a job. Washington gave him one, at the expense of Clint Robinson, and Baker summoned him Monday afternoon to dispel the angst created by twice having two on and none out, but not scoring a run.
“That situation, Opening Day, can’t really beat it,” Lind said. He was not nervous. Lind is 33, first entered the league in 2006 with the Toronto Blue Jays and has hit 186 career home runs. Excited is a better word for what he felt inside during his first at-bat with his new team, the fourth club of his 12-year career. In the batting cage, he hit “flips” — underhand tosses from up close — to become loose. His pinch-hitting plan is not intricate or honed. Lind just wants to relax, if possible, then see what happens.
In this case, he hit a 2-0, 94-mph fastball from Miami reliever David Phelps a few rows back in the center field stands. Lind had dealt well with Phelps in the past during their time as foes in the American League. Lind was 5-for-14 with two home runs against the veteran reliever. However, they had not faced each other in years.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Lind said. “You wish you could hold onto it for a lifetime, but it goes by and you don’t even realize what even happened.”
Lind’s home run backed up the one Bryce Harper hit in the sixth, also off Phelps. It was Harper’s fifth home run in as many Opening Day games. The lone time he had not homered to start the season was 2014. In 2013, he did so twice.
Miami’s odd bullpen construction pitted the right-handed Phelps against Harper and Lind, both left-handed batters. The Marlins do not have a left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. Washington populated its lineup with five players who can hit left-handed, including aligning three left-handed hitters in a row in spots 2-4. For a day, Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper and Murphy hit consecutively.
Washington’s bullpen use went as planned. After starter Stephen Strasburg was replaced at the plate by Lind in the seventh inning, Sammy Solis pitched the eighth. Murphy drove in a run in the bottom of the eighth for a 4-2 lead. After, 42,744 sets of eyes in the park shifted to Blake Treinen.
The Nationals’ new closer was surrounded by cameras pregame, providing the first dose of what his new life as the handler of the ninth inning will be like. Treinen stood on top of the bullpen mound watching the bottom of the eighth unfold. When the Marlins made a pitching change, he leaned against a green wall in the bullpen, waiting for his first save chance as the Nationals’ closer.
Treinen’s inning lasted three batters. Miami strongman Giancarlo Stanton popped out in foul territory. Treinen recovered from a 3-0 count to strike out Justin Bour with a veering slider, his antidote for left-handed hitters who had made his life miserable in 2015. A strikeout of Marcell Ozuna closed the game for Treinen’s first save in his new position and the second of his career.
“I had a little bit more emotion today than typical,” Treinen said. “I think it’s good to pitch with emotion, but I was able to take some pretty good focus to the mound, execute a couple of pitches which was really good after the outing a few days ago. So just take it and roll with it. I was really pleased with the execution of my pitches.”
For a day, the offseason could be reflected upon fondly. Washington was often panned for its decision to declare a closer from an in-house crop of options. Signing Lind midway through February was met with shrugs. The first appearances for each could not have gone better.
Washington Nationals pinch hitter Adam Lind celebrates his go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning of a 4-2 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday. The free agent signee later received a curtain call.
Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters hands the game ball to pitcher Blake Treinen after the closer earned his first save in his new role.