In the Nationals dugout after the third inning Friday night, Xavier Nady found Manager Davey Johnson and told him, “I don’t know how I caught it.” Nady had managed to make a once-in-a-career catch, a play that robbed a home run and turned around what eventually became a 7-4 Nationals victory.
With two outs in the third, Adrian Gonzalez crushed a deep line drive to right field off Stephen Strasburg, headed for the visitors’ bullpen. “It looked like the ball was going to go well over,” reliever Tom Gorzelanny said.
Nady sprinted back and drifted into the warning track. From center field, Bryce Harper yelled, “You’ve got room! You’ve got room!”
“And then he ran out of room pretty quick,” Harper said.
Nady never heard him, but he kept racing back, no regard for the waist-high wall he was approaching. Rain poured down in late afternoon, which canceled batting practice and prevented the Nationals from taking any fielding practice. Nady had never surveyed right field, or how many steps he had once he reached the warning track.
“I was just running until the wall made me either fall over or catch it,” Nady said.
From second base, Danny Espinosa thought, “He’s going to go over the wall.” At the last moment, Nady lunged over the fence and reached for the ball. As his ribs smashed into the fence, he snatched the ball and pulled it back. For the first time in his career, Nady had robbed a home run.
“It didn’t hurt a whole lot, to tell you the truth,” Nady said. “I was just more shocked I caught it. I think I kind of put everything aside and I wasn’t thinking about a whole lot. When I realized it was in my glove, I was kind of shocked myself.”
Nady held his glove above his head, but he never opened his glove to reveal the ball. He jogged back toward the Nationals’ dugout, where six teammates awaited him with high fives, including Strasburg.
“It was a great catch,” Strasburg said. “And I owe him one.”
In the dugout, first base coach Trent Jewett joked with Nady and told him that next time, he may want to actually show the umpire the ball prove he caught it.
The catch actually proved to be a pivotal moment. Rather than taking a 3-0 lead, the Red Sox led only 2-0. In the bottom of the third, the Nationals scored three runs to take control, and they never looked back. Nady’s catch had given the Nationals all the momentum.
“That’s the important part,” Nady said. “It was a weird play. I was fortunate enough to hold to it.”
“That was unbelievable, wasn’t it?” Harper said. “That should be No. 1 on Top 10. It was a pretty unbelievable catch. He slammed into the wall pretty hard.”
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