WASHINGTON -- During Spring Training, Nationals manager Dusty Baker often said he needed a productive bench to win the National League East. On Friday night, the bench came through in the clutch with two pinch-hit home runs in a 5-3 victory over the Marlins.
It marked the first time in their history the Nationals knocked two-pinch hit homers in a game. They rank second in the Majors behind the Cardinals with six pinch-hit long balls.
"It's especially nice when they hit home runs," Baker said. "Your bench is so very important. You want some production from the guys on the bench. That's why you try to give them a few at-bats and some action so they could feel more comfortable. These guys, they work hard and they hit a lot [in the cage]. They have a lot of pride coming off the bench. They are proud of what they are doing as a unit."
The bench showed how powerful it could be starting in the sixth. With the Nationals down, 2-0, Jose Lobaton on first and Marlins right-hander Bryan Morris on the mound, Stephen Drew, pinch-hitting for Oliver Perez, swung at a 2-1 pitch and hit the ball over the right-field wall to tie the score. Drew was 0-for-8 as a pinch-hitter this season before the at-bat.
"You have to get a pitch up," Drew said. "Morris has a good sinker and slider, so in that at-bat, I was trying to get something to drive. I was able to get into a hitter's count, 2-1, and got the pitch I wanted and put a good swing on it."
For Drew, this is his first full season as a bench player, and he often gets feedback from teammates Clint Robinson and Chris Heisey about being a reserve. Drew tries not to overswing and stay loose when he comes off the bench.
"[Robinson and Heisey] have done it before. We have a good bench, man. It's fun to watch," Drew said. "As of late, I'm gotten better at it. Try not to take too many swings in the cage and be ready to go into the game. You also want to have the good feeling when you go to the batter's box, like you had three or four at-bats in your mind. I'm staying focused mentally and ready to go up there. It's a good feeling tonight to contribute to tie the game."
After Bryce Harper gave Washington the lead with a two-run shot in the seventh inning, Heisey added to it by hitting a pinch-hit homer an inning later off right-hander Dustin McGowan. It was his third pinch-hit dinger of the season.
"Right now, we are riding a wave of success. We are going to keep doing it as long as we can," said Robinson, who has one of the six pinch-hit home runs. "Each guy has their own little routine that they do. I think most of it is confidence. We have confidence in ourselves to succeed. I think Dusty has done a good job of putting us in good situations to succeed. He knows our strengths. He has done a really good job when it comes to the bench."