WASHINGTON -- Adrian Sanchez needed a moment to fix his hair. After all, the rookie had just recorded his first Major League hit and scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning of the Nationals' 5-4, walk-off victory over the Braves on Friday night, so he wanted to look his best for the cameras during his postgame interview.
As Sanchez spoke through a translator about how thankful he was to have the opportunity, the ball he hit sat in his locker behind him in a glass box with the words "First ML Hit" written across the front.
Sanchez soaked in every moment of his career night after going 0-for-5 to begin his Major League career.
"It's a special moment for all of us," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "They were partying inside with him. It's great. Especially for a guy that's been in the Minor Leagues for so long, to get his first hit in a situation like that -- his first run, the game-winning run -- it was a great day for him and for us."
After the Nationals rallied for three runs in the ninth inning, Sanchez pinch-hit for reliever Blake Treinen to lead off the 10th, the second time in his young career he's been placed in a high-pressure at-bat.
Sanchez knocked an 0-1 slider into center field, and the fans awarded the 26-year-old with a standing ovation as he crossed first base. Sanchez smiled as Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman congratulated him, and the coaches threw the ball into the dugout before it was preserved in a plastic bag.
Sanchez advanced to third on Ryan Zimmerman's single before Daniel Murphy's walk-off single drove him in. The 6-foot, 160-pound shortstop smiled as he crossed home plate and received a two-handed high-five from Anthony Rendon before collecting hugs from his teammates while they celebrated around Murphy.
"The guys were very, very excited," Sanchez said through a translator, "and they poured a little bit of powder on me."
The moment of joy came six days after Sanchez struck out on a controversial call to end the Nationals' 2-1 loss to the Cardinals. With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, Sanchez pinch-hit and worked into a 3-2 count. However, a pitch that appeared outside the strike zone was called a strike. But Friday made up for that spoiled moment.
"You can't draw it any better," Max Scherzer said. "I guess the only way it could have been better is if he had actually got that walk in St. Louis, if they had called a ball. I'm sure that's a huge monkey off his back."
Sanchez spent 11 years in the Minor Leagues before getting called up for Trea Turner (fractured wrist), though he's attained just one Major League start while Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo have manned shortstop.
The Nationals featured a strong bench before Sanchez arrived due to Adam Lind, Drew and Ryan Raburn's contributions. But with Sanchez proving he's not afraid of crucial moments, the Nationals will have an array of options late in games, as Turner likely won't return until August at the earliest.
Sanchez likely also grasped how quickly he needs to be ready for an interview after a big game. He'll have his hair gel handy, prepared to flash his smile to the cameras.