Welcome to Four Down Territory! This is a space where I’ll write about four things in professional sports every Saturday. Whether it’s the four greatest moments or the four worst blunders or anything in between, the only rule is that I’ll discuss four things. In my sixth installment, I’ll be outlining Gerardo Parra’s most clutch moments for Washington’s Nationals.
This article was inspired by a conversation I had with assistant news editor Roman Peregrino, who I know is one of two regular readers of this column. We talk a lot about baseball. Like maybe too much. But he asked at what point the Nationals really started to turn it around, and I had the answer. The day we got Gerardo Parra was the day our season was saved. A guy slashing .223/.286/.367 is usually nothing to write home about. Yet, we’ve been playing .600 ball since his acquisition. He’s brought veteran leadership and a relaxed atmosphere to the clubhouse, helping everyone to perform at the level they know they can. In just two short months, Parra changed the whole culture with his dance parties in the dugout after every homer and his walk-up song (yes, that’s actually his song). The team is finally making good on the promise of another outfielder who shall not be named to make baseball fun again, but it’s Parra doing most of the work. Don’t think for a second, though, that Parra hasn’t made plays at the plate.
PARRAty #1: Nationals vs. Dodgers
The venue: Dodger Stadium, 1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90012
The date: Saturday, May 11, 2019
First pitch: 9:10 pm ET
The situation: Washington down 2-1, top of the 8th, 2 out, 2-2 count
The pitch: 95.1 MPH four-seam fastball over the plate
The play: Gerardo Parra hits a grand slam to right center field off Scott Alexander. Michael A. Taylor scores. Victor Robles scores. Juan Soto scores.
Technically, this wasn’t the way Parra’s Nationals stint began, as he had appeared the day before against the Dodgers. But, we’ll call this his official start, as this is when he arrived for the Nationals. Parra shelled out in a big way against the top team in the league, especially in a time where Washington was plagued by injury. An outfielder by trade, Parra played first base to give Howie Kendrick the night off from the field, as Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams were both on the injured list. He had rarely played first base, but he answered the call. At the plate, he just waited for the pitch to go his way, and when Alexander left it over the plate, Parra did what he’s done here. He crushed a fly ball deep to right center, and we beat the best team in the league. What a debut.
PARRAty #2: Mets vs. Nationals
The venue: Nationals Park, 1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC, 20003
The date: Thursday, May 16, 2019
First pitch: 1:05 pm ET
The situation: Washington tied 4-4 after having a 4-0 lead, bottom of the 5th, 1 out, 2-2 count
The pitch: 96.4 MPH two-seam fastball high over the plate
The play: Gerardo Parra homers to right field off Zack Wheeler. Howie Kendrick scores.
I went to this game with my work team. Someone working for the team who goes around doing the fan interactions did a lame joke where either you’re at the game with your work or you’re playing hooky from work. Either way, it was a fun time, and we were treated to a fairly entertaining game. Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez had to exit the game due to an injury, so the Nationals had to improvise and cobble together a bullpen game.The offense picked up Washington’s pitching, as they shelled Mets starter Zack Wheeler for 11 hits and 6 runs. The last two runs came from yours truly, Gerardo Parra. With wily veteran Howie Kendrick on base, Parra took advantage of another high pitch, blasting a shot into the home bullpen. It was as good as an at-bat gets: Baby Shark at the beginning, and the home run horn at the end. The Nationals carried a 7-4 lead into the 9th, and Sean Doolittle delivered a dramatic save, conceding two runs before finally getting the third out, and getting me free Chick-fil-A. Thanks Doo. Thanks Gerardo.
PARRAty #3: Nationals vs. Reds
The venue: Great American Ball Park, 100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, OH, 45202
The date: Saturday, June 1, 2019
First pitch: 4:10 pm ET
The situation: Washington tied 0-0, top of the 2nd, 1 out, 1-2 count
The pitch: 93.0 MPH four-seam fastball up and in
The play: Gerardo Parra homers to right field off Tanner Roark. Anthony Rendon scores. Brian Dozier scores.
This was a big game for the Nationals, who needed to start June off on the right foot to try and get back in the playoff picture. We had to do so against one of our own. In the first Tanner-for-Tanner trade in the MLB, we acquired Tanner Rainey as a relief arm but had to give up our beloved Tanner Roark, a .500 bulldog and a capable fourth starter. Personally, I thought it was a poor move: we were getting a minor league arm in exchange for a steady, reliable pitcher who we replaced with a more expensive, older question mark in Anibal Sanchez. Looking back, it may have been the right thing for us, but I still miss Roark for sentimental reasons. The Nationals were extremely motivated for this game. They started June the right way: with a big swing from Gerardo Parra. After Anthony Rendon and Brian Dozier reached base on singles, Gerardo was up to bat. Tanner tried to keep it inside but it wasn’t far enough, and Parra crushed it halfway up the seats in right field. It was the first home run Tanner Roark had allowed since April, and Parra blew the game open for the Nationals. Just another huge hit in Parra’s Nationals career.
PARRAty #4: Marlins vs. Nationals
The venue: Nationals Park, 1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC, 20003
The date: Thursday, July 4, 2019
First pitch: 11:05 am ET
The situation: Washington up 3-2, bottom of the 6th, 2 out, 0-0 count
NOTE: Trea Turner intentionally walked to get to Gerardo Parra
The pitch: 92.0 MPH four-seam fastball high over the plate
The play: Gerardo Parra doubles to deep center field off Adam Conley. Victor Robles scores. Trea Turner scores.
I didn’t watch this game because I went to Tyson’s Corner to look for July 4th deals and steals. It was worth it for me, as I met Evgeny Kuznetsov, one of my favorite hockey players. But I’m a baseball fan too. Of course I was checking MLB At Bat instead of actually looking for a pair of jeans that I really need. I saw that the Nationals were beating Miami 3-2, and the Marlins had just intentionally walked Trea Turner to get to Gerardo Parra, figuring he was an easier out. Immediately, I thought, “The disrespect.” The straight disrespect it took to want to face one of Washington’s most clutch bats. Clutch hitting isn’t just about coming up big when you’re behind. It’s also about tacking on the all-important insurance runs and giving your bullpen a little bit of a lift. After the straight disrespect, Baby Shark rang out around the ballpark. It was time. Gerardo wasted no time at all, slamming a shot on the first pitch off the Geico sign in right center field. We knew Trea was going to score from first, and it goes without saying that Robles made it home too. To answer Miami’s strategy by bringing two around on the first pitch says a lot about Gerardo Parra’s ability. Don’t ever underestimate him, and don’t sleep on Washington’s Nationals either.