The Nationals beat the Braves on St. Patrick’s Day on a 3 run Walk-Off Home Run by non-roster invitee Chris Heisey. There were lessons learned by the player hitting in front of Heisey who made this walk-off possible. Jason Martinson has never played in the Major Leagues as Matt den Dekker who was hitting in front of Martinson has and Heisey who was batting behind Martinson as Heisey played for the Cincinnati Reds when Dusty was his manager.
Last week Martinson was in a similar situation where a walk-off was possible and his aggression got the best of him, and Assistant Hitting Coach Jacque Jones and manager Dusty Baker took him aside for an education on key situations.
Martinson said, “Jacque and Dusty both spoke to me about the thought process going into these late inning situations with the game on the line. They said ‘the pitchers are more scared of you then you are of them. Don’t get too aggressive because a good pitcher will take advantage of your aggression.’ Their advice would prove to be useful today.”
On Thursday, Martinson would step into the batter’s box with Matt den Dekker on 1st base and 1 out with the Nats behind 7-6 in the 9th inning, and once again Martinson found himself in that walk-off situation.
Martinson knew this was a second chance for him and as he said, “I get another chance to play in front of the skipper and give him a positive look. My job is to take it, if it is there, and if not, find a way to keep the line moving and give the next guy [Heisey] a shot to win the game.”
Ryan Weber was on the mound in the 9th when Martinson stepped up to the plate. Not a lot known about Weber who debuted for the Braves as a September call-up in 2015.
Martinson said, “Rick Schu prepped me on Weber before I got up [to go to the on-deck circle] and Rick told me that Weber throws sinkers (90mph) mainly and a slow curve (76mph) and a change and would want me to ground to the shortstop for a game ending doubleplay. Rick Schu said ‘stay off the inside and middle-in that will end up as a ball inside off the plate as his ball will move in on you.’ Rick was right. When den Dekker stole 2nd base he nibbled around the zone with 1st base open hoping I would chase and strike myself out. Worked it to a 3-1 count and just like Rick said the ball was looking in and I watched it come inside for ball 4 and I took my walk.”
Jason Martinson is getting a great look this Spring Training and on Thursday he showed that he learned and he progressed because he listened and applied everything for that moment to keep that line moving. Martinson said that he learned, “The pitchers will try to beat you on your aggression. It’s a league about making adjustments.”
Martinson kept the line moving, and took what the game gave him. He didn’t try to be a hero, just did his part. Chris Heisey stepped up to the plate against Weber with den Dekker on 2nd and Martinson on 1st and needed to get a ball up to drive and stay off that sinker low. Heisey got his pitch and didn’t miss it and sent it over the leftfield fence for the game winning walk-off. Heisey was humbled in the situation saying he hadn’t done much this Spring. Heisey said, “It’s nice that something finally paid off for me today in the game. I’ve never had a walk-off Home Run in the Majors. Never had one before this one in Spring Training. For me, I’m trying to make my way into a roster spot on the bench for this team.”
Heisy is a long shot to make this Nationals team and the 31 year old outfielder has the reputation as one of the better bench bats with an excellent .936 OPS in 160 career pinch-hit opportunities.
Baseball is a team game. Lessons learned by Heisey’s teammates. Chris Heisey has some Irish heritage, but then again, isn’t everyone Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? Was it luck, or was it skill? Seemed like skill.