Chavis' baseball IQ, clutch play secure hard-fought win

September 18th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- stood at first base and blocked out the roaring crowd of Brewers fans at American Family Field on Sunday afternoon to quickly calculate the different scenarios that could transpire.

Bottom of the 11th inning. One-run lead. Runners on first and third. Only one out.

Chavis, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for Dominic Smith in the ninth, needed to strategize on the fly. The options dashed in his mind.

“We had a little bit of time before the play happened, so I tried to go through every possibility of the ball coming to me so that I’d know what to do no matter what,” Chavis said. “It’s a pretty big play.

“I literally went through: If I dive to my left, I’m stepping on the bag and going home. If I dive to my right, I’m going straight home. I couldn’t step on the bag and go to second, because I was worried about the guy getting in a rundown and the run scoring. So I was literally going through every possible outcome.”

With William Contreras on third and Willy Adames on first, reliever Robert Garcia -- pitching in his second inning of the day -- threw a slider to Rowdy Tellez. Tellez grounded to first, where Chavis dove to his left to nab the ball and stepped on first for the second out.

This is where that prep work came into play. Chavis turned, surveyed the field and fired the ball to catcher Drew Millas at home. Contreras was about halfway down the baseline, and Millas ran him back to third to tag him for the final out of the Nationals’ 2-1 win over the Brewers.

“Honestly, when I was thinking about it, I thought that might be the most fun one,” Chavis said. “So I was kind of glad that it worked out that way.”

The double play preserved Garcia’s scoreless two-inning outing and iced the 27-year-old’s first Major League win. It also helped to snap a five-game losing streak for the Nationals.

“Chavis made a great play,” Garcia said. “As soon as he got the ball and tagged the bag, my initial reaction was, ‘He’s going to go to second.’ … Now that I thought about it, it was probably a good thing that he didn’t so that he didn’t allow the runner at second to get into a rundown. … It happened really quick and then, boom boom -- that was the first win. It was nice.”

The quick-thinking decision sparked praise from both managers for its baseball IQ.

“Awesome, awesome,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “That’s just a good baseball player thinking about the situation. The fact that he stepped on first [base] first and knew right away to check the runner, saw him go and then threw the ball home was awesome. Great job.” 

Echoed Brewers manager Craig Counsell: “[Tellez] smoked the ball, and it was a great play by the first baseman. Tip your cap to that. … He made a great play -- and then he made a great play to throw home, as well, not throw to second.”

Of Chavis’ 47 contests played in his first season with the Nationals, 20 have been as an in-game substitute. Sunday was only his ninth game at first base for Washington, where the fifth-year utility infielder has logged over 1,400 innings in his career.

“It felt pretty much normal, which is a good thing because when you prepare for those moments, nothing really speeds up on you,” Chavis said. “… The fact that something like that was in extra innings and I was able to slow down the moment, I think that’s pretty significant and something that I’m proud of.”

Chavis said he takes pride in “staying available.” With that comes the background work that kept him ready and calm for a situation like his 11th-inning defensive heroics.

“It’s really cool that I was able to just flip it and go help the team win that way,” said Chavis. “I’m not getting a whole lot of at-bats right now, so if I can help win -- whether it’s baserunning, making a play on defense or just being available, helping the team in the clubhouse -- I’m really just trying to do whatever I can to help out.”