Wong scores from 3rd on ... a foul popup?

August 22nd, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- saw an opening and he took it, stealing a run and giving the Brewers a jolt of energy in Saturday’s 9-6 win over the Nationals. 

In one of the Brewers’ best instances of heads-up baserunning all season, Wong managed to score from third base on a foul popup in front of the Brewers’ dugout. The Nationals challenged a close play at the plate and lost, and the Brewers proceeded to make it a three-run fifth inning that brought the American Family Field crowd to life.

“It caught me by surprise, too,” said Christian Yelich, who homered twice in the game and drove in six runs. “I was watching everybody catch the fly ball. The farthest thing from my mind was him tagging up at third and trying to score.”

Here’s how the odd play unfolded.

Wong was at third base after Yelich greeted Washington reliever Gabe Klobosits with a single for his second RBI on a productive afternoon. That cut Milwaukee’s deficit to 3-2 for Brewers catcher Omar Narváez, who popped an 0-2 pitch into foul ground on the first-base side of the infield. Klobosits, catcher Tres Barrera and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman all converged, with Zimmerman making the catch 54 feet from home plate, according to Statcast’s projection.

All the while, Wong noticed that home plate was wide open. So he took off, and slid home just as Zimmerman dove headfirst in an attempt to make a tag. It was close, but Zimmerman only managed to tag Wong’s back leg, and Wong was safe on the play.

"We’ve got to get somebody back,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Once they see Zim going to catch the ball, for me, the pitcher goes to cover home. You can't have [third baseman] Carter [Kieboom] cover because there is a guy on second base, so he's got to stay put. But the pitcher's got to get to home."

Longtime official scorer Tim O’Driscoll said he was unable by rule to award Narváez a sacrifice fly on a ball on the infield. So, mark it 3-F on your scorecard, and give Narváez an RBI.

“Omar told me he’s going to get me a bottle of anything I want. I appreciate that,” Wong said. “I’m just trying to spark the team. That road trip took a lot out of us; it was a tough, long road trip. We were coming back on fumes a little bit. I’m just trying to be aggressive and take advantage of situations.”

He was referring to the Brewers’ 8-2 trip to Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis that concluded Thursday night. The Brewers got home in the wee hours of Friday, lost their series opener against the Nationals, then played for four hours and 18 minutes on Saturday.

It was worth it.

“It was a fun game for the fans, everybody who stuck it out,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There were some really cool baseball plays and some really cool moments in it. You had to stick around for a pretty long one to get it all in.”

What did he think of Wong’s scamper home?

“That's just an exciting play,” Counsell said. “It's just a great instinctual baseball play. Heads-up, reading the situation, not giving up on the play. Plays like that are energizing for everybody.”

The Brewers then took a 4-3 lead in the inning before the Nationals came right back to tie it in the top of the sixth on Yadiel Hernandez’s solo home run. Milwaukee eventually won the game with a five-run eighth inning that included a grand slam from Yelich.

“I want to take my chances and be aggressive right there,” Wong said. “If it worked, it would spark the team. If not, at least they knew I was doing something with the right cause.”