The catch? Well done. The throw? Ridiculous

August 26th, 2020

WASHINGTON -- What does a Glove Glove Award finalist look like? Roll the tape on .

Fresh off a rain delay in the sixth inning of the Nationals' 8-3 series-opening loss to the Phillies on Tuesday at Nationals Park, the agile 23-year-old chased down Alec Bohm's line drive off reliever to center field. Following the ball with his eyes -- and with the directional guidance of fellow outfielders and -- Robles twisted his body to leap and outstretch his glove arm at the same time for a how-did-he-just-do-that catch. Statcast projected the liner at 376 feet with a 104.3 mph exit velocity.

“As soon as he hit it, I thought the ball was going over his head,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He crushed it. But he made an unbelievable play.”

The momentum carried Robles onto the warning track in center field before he turned to see the action behind him. Jean Segura, who had been on first base, was already past second. Quick on his feet with quick thinking, Robles then hurled the ball 85 mph to on the fly to catch a sliding Segura attempting to hurry back to first and complete the inning-ending double play.

“It was impressive,” shortstop said. “Once I saw Segura go around second base, I knew that there was a shot for him to make the throw. It was just whether or not it was going to be on target -- the arm strength’s obviously there. When Cabby didn’t move, I felt like it was going to happen. Sure enough it did. Not very many people who can do that. Glad he’s on our team.”

Guerra pointed his glove toward Robles, while Segura looked back into center field, removed his helmet and shook his head. He was on the short end of another Robles defensive masterpiece.

“I always try to keep my focus on the game, have the right mindset," Robles said. "So I knew we had a runner on first base and in my mind, the whole time, if I was able to make a play, I knew that I was going to turn around and try to make a throw to first base to double him up. When I read the runner, I knew he was off enough for me to make the throw, and that’s exactly what I did.”

Robles is starting to make these double-take moments look routine -- this was his second head-turning play in a week. Last Wednesday, he robbed the Braves' Austin Riley of a go-ahead two-run homer by pulling off a soaring snow-cone grab at the wall at Truist Park.

“It’s something I’m always ready for,” Robles said. “It’s something I’ve always been able to do and prepare pitch by pitch. I’m always set and ready.”

The combination of Robles’ athleticism, instinct and preparation make him dangerous in center field. In 2019, Robles bested all outfielders with 22 outs above average. A student of the game, he is hungry to continue honing his craft.

“Before the ball’s even hit, he knows the situation and he knows what he wants to do,” Martinez said. “He figured that ball was deep, going over his head and the guy was going to be around the base there or get close to the base, so he turned and just fired the ball to first base. That’s something that you really don’t teach. It comes with instinct, and he has that. What a throw, all the way in the air.”

Robles puts himself in Gold Glove Award contention talk with every acrobatic play he makes. Martinez believes his potential goes far beyond stealing home runs. In only his second full season in the Majors, Robles is working toward being a topic of conversation on both sides of the field.

“He’s still maturing as a player, he really is, and he’s learning,” Martinez said. “He’s trying to play the game the right way. I still believe the sky’s the limit for him. Here’s a kid that’s going to potentially hit 25 home runs, drive in 60, 70, 80 runs, steal a bunch of bases and win a Gold Glove. I really believe that. … One thing I know about him is that he loves to play the game. He’s all-in every day.”