LOS ANGELES -- After Gerardo Parra made contact, he paused for a moment in the batter’s box to watch the ball sailing high through the air at Dodger Stadium. By the time it landed in the bleachers in right field, the Nationals dugout went hysterical. Max Scherzer jumped up and down with glee and let out a yell complete with an added expletive.
Parra’s first career hit with the Nationals was a memorable one, a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning against righty Dylan Floro, catapulting the Nationals to a 5-2 victory Saturday night with one swing.
“What a really beautiful swing,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.
“That was amazing,” left fielder Juan Soto said. “I was on first, I just wanted to turn around and watch where the ball was gonna land.”
“We needed this,” Scherzer said with a smile. “That was a heck of an inning for us.”
The Nationals signed Parra on Thursday, right before the start of this series in Los Angeles when their lineup had been so decimated by injuries and the roster so depleted that they seemed almost desperate for healthy bodies. Parra was coming off a miserable start offensively before being designated for assignment by the Giants. He cleared waivers and was a free agent at this time one week ago. But the Nats believed he still had something left to contribute as an outfielder and backup first baseman, where he started Saturday night for the first time in since 2017.
And Parra delivered one of the biggest hits of the year to date for the 2019 Nationals, the kind of comeback win that could give these Nationals new life as they fight to turn their season around.
“Happy, happy, you know, happy,” Parra said. “It’s a big moment for me. I’m trying to help my team to win.”
This was just Parra’s second career grand slam and first since April 22, 2012. It was also just his second home run of the season, the first of which came against the Nationals last month. Despite spending the past three seasons with the Rockies and getting to play so often at Coors Field, he averaged just eight homers per season since 2016. And Parra’s heroics came against Floro, who entered the game having not allowed an earned run all season long.
Parra’s slam also helped Scherzer pick up his first victory since April 7 and just Washington’s second win in nine starts with its best pitcher on the mound. Scherzer did his part with seven strikeouts in seven innings in a pitching duel that lived up to the billing with Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler, who also struck out seven, but tossed seven shutout innings before handing the ball to his bullpen with a 2-0 lead.
And then the Nationals struck for a comeback. Wilmer Difo started the inning with a single off Pedro Baez. The Nats caught a break on a throwing error from Justin Turner to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Eventually the Nats loaded the bases with one out, and Soto finished off a nine-pitch at-bat with a run-scoring single. It all set the stage for Parra to turn himself into a Nationals hero with one large swing.
“To see Parra hit that ball over the wall, I think this whole dugout went nuts,” Scherzer said. “That gave us so much energy to go out and compete in the eighth and ninth. That’s what we needed.”