Roger Bernadina’s diving, tumbling, game-saving catch on Tuesday night was one of the best, perhaps the best, catch of the baseball season given the gravity of the situation: a one-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the 12th with two runners on base against the Houston Astros. While a tremendous play, it should come as no surprise, as the 28-year-old outfielder, nicknamed the Shark, has been enjoying arguably the best season of his career.
Bernadina, one of the few holdovers from the Montreal Expos days, has served a relatively smaller, yet vital, role for the Washington Nationals this season. Through all the injuries, he has filled in at all three outfield positions, especially after Ian Desmond landed on the disabled list in July and forced Steve Lombardozzi to move from left field second base. He was an effective pinch hitter and defensive replacement, but in more regular playing time recently, he has acquitted himself well.
Although a small sample size of 201 plate appearances, Bernadina has so far posted career highs in batting average (.276), on-base percentage (.362) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.741).
Bernadina was the Nationals’ leadoff hitter and near-everyday center fielder before his performance slipped and Rick Ankiel returned from injury. When the Nationals needed a spot for starter Chien-Ming Wang last July, they optioned Bernadina to Class AAA Syracuse for a month. While he notched 337 plate appearances, he hit only .243 with a .301 on-base percentage. In 2010, he had similar numbers with more at-bats.
The Nationals have given Bernadina opportunities over the past three seasons and now he has shown more promise. Regardless of his performance at the plate, Bernadina has shown a flair for tough plays. He’s not the Nationals’ best defensive outfielder but he makes up for any deficiencies with speed and experience.
Last season, he made a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch against the Marlins, laying out completely in mid-air to snare a ball and tumbling over when he landed.