'I just went full-extension': Catcher makes leaping tag at home

May 26th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- Before Rougned Odor's go-ahead homer, before Josh Hader slammed the door on one of the most dramatic wins of their season, the Padres needed to find a way to stop the bleeding in the seventh inning Thursday.

Catcher sure made it dramatic.

The rookie made an incredible diving tag on Nationals center fielder Alex Call at home plate in the seventh inning, barely nicking a single cleat on Call's right shoe to keep the Padres within a run at 6-5. Call, after diving head-first into the plate, jumped up and signaled safe in protest. But Sullivan knew.

"I felt it," Sullivan said. "I hit the very back of his shoe, and I felt it on the very edge of my glove."

And, yes, it was really that close.

"I was like, 'If he got me, it's by a thread, the thread on my clothing.'" Call said. "And that ended up being what it was."

The Nationals had already scored five runs in the seventh, opening the frame with seven consecutive hits. They were threatening for more with Luis García at the plate when Nick Martinez bounced a curveball in the dirt.

The ball got away from Sullivan -- but only barely off the home-plate dirt. Thinking quickly, Sullivan realized he had no play on the flip to Martinez. So he grabbed the ball with his glove and dove toward Call.

"I just went full-extension," Sullivan said. "Honestly I just … dove as far as I could and got him on the edge of the foot."

Even though he knew he'd applied the tag, Sullivan later revealed that he was holding his breath a moment, waiting for the umpire's call. The contact was so slight that he wasn't sure whether it would be clear on replay. (It was, as the call was confirmed.)

"At that point in time, you've just got to try to challenge it," said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. "But it was close. He did a heck of a job. He had a quick break. I think if he flips the ball to the pitcher, he might be safe right there. The catcher did a nice job just grabbing the ball -- actually with his glove, too, which is tough to do -- and diving and tagging him out."

The Padres would come from behind to win 8-6 on Odor's three-run homer with two outs in the ninth. But really, the comeback began with Sullivan.

"An incredible play," said Jake Cronenworth, whose leadoff single sparked the ninth-inning rally. "He keeps us within a run and gives us a chance. It was huge."