Aggressive sends by Wash key Braves' rally

Third-base coach: 'We've been aggressive all year'

October 18th, 2021

ATLANTA -- was only a few steps off second base when Braves third-base coach Ron Washington began windmilling his right arm, imploring him to race home on an single.

No matter that Rosario had a late start from second base. No matter that there was only one out in a two-run game in the eighth inning Sunday night at Truist Park. No matter that right fielder Steven Souza Jr. was charging.

“I’m never doubting my sends,” Washington said later. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I’ve just got to eat it.”

Washington wasn’t wrong. As Souza’s throw reached home on two hops, Rosario dove and flopped onto his left side, stabbing his left hand toward the plate. Rosario touched it a fraction of a second before Dodgers catcher Will Smith tagged him on the back, scoring Atlanta’s third run in what became a 5-4 walk-off win in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

“I was scared a little bit,” Rosario said, laughing early Monday morning. “But I did a good job on the slide. I did a really good job.”

Moments after a replay review confirmed Rosario’s run, the Dodgers again put Washington to the test. Center fielder Mookie Betts tracked down what looked at first to be a surefire game-tying double from . This time, it was Albies who raced past Washington at third base, scoring as Corey Seager's relay trailed a bit up the third-base line and got past the catcher Smith.

“We love the aggressiveness because that’s how you’re going to score runs,” Albies said. “If you’re playing scared, you’re never going to push the guys to score the important runs for the team.”

That was the Braves’ mantra during a regular season that saw them rank fourth among the 30 Major League teams in their percentage of “extra bases taken” -- a measure of how often runners advance more than one base on a single, or more than two on a double. Credit the athleticism of players such as Rosario and Albies for fueling some of that statistic, but Washington for much of the rest.

Happy to be described as one of the league’s most aggressive third-base coaches, the 69-year-old former manager says he forged his reputation during a decade-long playing career that he spent frequently trying to take extra bases. Washington went on to coach third for the A’s multiple times, before joining manager Brian Snitker’s staff in Atlanta.

The change in scenery did nothing to change his philosophy.

“That’s our mindset,” Washington said. “We’ve been aggressive all year. We’re aggressive. They know I’m aggressive. I tell them, ‘When you come my way, you [should] be looking to score.’

“I’m not going to be stupid, but if there’s a little bit of chance that we can make it, I’m going for it.”

For Rosario, who capped his four-hit game with a walk-off single in the ninth, the eighth-inning dash around the bases marked just one aspect of a frenetic night. It was Rosario who sparked Atlanta’s eighth-inning rally in the first place, singling and then making a daring run for second on a routine fly ball to left field. With one out in a two-run game, a wrong read would have proven costly.

But Rosario’s decision worked, as did both of Washington’s aggressive sends. Not that he ever had a doubt in his mind.

“Young third-base coaches, I tell them all the time, ‘OK, you start getting people thrown out? Don’t stop,’” Washington said. “Because if you stop and you find yourself in between, you’ll question your instincts. Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight, it worked, and it worked in a situation where we needed it to work. The baseball gods blessed us.”