The Nationals traded for Scott Hairston in early July to address the unproductive right-handed side of the bench and help improve the team’s measly numbers against left-handed pitching. And until Wednesday, Hairston felt like he hadn’t done his part.
He entered the game 1 for 10 as a pinch hitter. He was, however, 7 for 26 (.269) against left-handed pitching, exactly why he had been brought to the Nationals. Still, he felt like he hadn’t done enough. He certainly hadn’t yet delivered a big hit in his brief Nationals tenure. Then on Wednesday, against left-hander James Russell, he smashed a pinch-hit three-run home run that broke open a tie game in the seventh en route to an 11-6 win. It was his first Nationals home run.
“It feels good,” Hairston said. “It’s the stuff that you dream about as a kid, especially when the batter in front of you gets [intentionally] walked. There’s a little pride as a hitter. You want to stick it to that team, so to speak, when you walk the guy ahead of you. I kind of take that personal. I just wanted to make sure I did my job.”
Hairston has been productive his entire career against left-handed pitching; he has a .269 average and .819 OPS against them. But this season has been a down year for him; he is hitting .185 overall with a .662 OPS. Against left-handers, he is hitting .210 with a .770 OPS. (The Nationals, as a team, are last in the majors with a .227 average against left-handed pitching.) And as a pinch hitter, Hairston hadn’t done much yet for the Nationals, or even during his few starts.
“I haven’t made the most of my chances,” he said. “I don’t feel that way at all. The way the year’s been going there’s been so many situations where I haven’t got the job done. It’s a struggle but everyday’s a new day. I’ve just been scratching and clawing the last few weeks.”
Added Manager Davey Johnson: “He hasn’t really got big hits for us in the pinch-hit role, but that certainly makes up for anything he hasn’t done in the past. That was big.”
Pinch hitting at Wrigley Field is also harder than at any other stadium in baseball. The only indoor batting cages are behind the right field wall and inaccessible during the game. But Hairston had developed a routine before he was traded to the Nationals.
“It’s very hard to stay loose here,” he said. “I was somewhat used to getting ready before I got traded. But you have to really keep in mind that your body can get tight on the bench so I usually get up every other inning and stretch or ride the bike. I think mainly you have to be mentally focused in that situation and prepared to come in and do your job.”
Even though Hairston hadn’t delivered a big hit until Wednesday, he certainly represents an upgrade to the bench given his experience. And with his contract, he is expected to provide the same veteran bat next season.
“I think our approach this year really hasn’t been conducive to the lefties,” Jayson Werth said. “It’s kinda showed. Scott has a proven track record. … You can’t hold up too much weight on seasonal stats especially when there’s a proven track record like Scott’s.”
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Richmond 4, Harrisburg 3: Robert Gilliam allowed three runs on five hits over four innings. Ryan Perry and Matt Grace combined for 3 2/3 scoreless. Neil Holland took the loss. Carlos Rivero went 1 for 4 with an RBI.
Winston-Salem 3, Potomac 1 (5): Paul Demny allowed three runs, two earned on four hits over five innings. Adrian Sanchez drove in a run.
Hagerstown 4, Lakewood 3: Pedro Encarnacion allowed two runs on four hits over five innings. Christian Meza allowed one run over two innings. Justin Thomas tossed two scoreless. Mike McQuillan finished 2 for 4 with two RBI. Will Piwnica-Worms and Stephen Perez each added RBI.
Auburn 7, Batavia 0 (7): In his first start since his promotion, Lucas Giolito fired five scoreless innings. He allowed only two hits, walked none and struck out four, and earned the win. Matt Reistetter and Bryan Lippincott each smacked two hits.
Batavia 1, Auburn 0 (7): Casey Selsor tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings but L.J. Hollins took the loss. Bryan Lippincott finished 2 for 3.