SAN DIEGO — The thing about pinch hitting is, it only takes one swing. One minute, Chad Tracy can be sitting in the Washington Nationals dugout, a bystander as victory nears. The next, he may be running to the end of the tunnel for two emergency warmup hacks. One night, he may be staying up in bed wondering when the next hit will come. The next, he could pump his fist while circling the bases, having rescued the other 24 men in his clubhouse from an agonizing loss.
Tracy and the core of Nationals pinch hitters he leads – the Goon Squad, they call themselves – had flailed through the early season. In the 10th inning Friday night, Tracy blasted Huston Street’s elevated change-up over the right-field fence at Petco Park, lifting the Nationals to a harrowing, 6-5 victory over the San Diego Padres. With one swing, Tracy struck a blow for Washington’s bench, bailed out Ryan Zimmerman after another throwing error and made the Nationals, in their 42nd game, the final National League team to record a pinch-hit RBI.