“He told me he could catch if I asked him,” Baker said.
So Difo, on the bench in Washington’s original lineup, made his third career start as a second baseman batting eighth. By the end of the night, he had enjoyed the best performance of his brief major league career in the Nationals’ 10-4 win.
Offensively, the 24-year-old Dominican went 3 for 5 with an RBI, run and stolen base. It was his first multi-hit game in the majors. Defensively, he covered a wide swath of ground and flashed some leather, most notably on a groundball to his right to initiate a double play with the bases loaded and zero outs in the first inning. A run scored, but that was all the Diamondbacks tallied in the inning.
Later in the game, he was punished for having that expansive range when he got to a groundball with a dive to his left that most players wouldn’t have reached. He was charged with an error when his throw went wide of first baseman Clint Robinson.
“I’m a guy who’s ready for the situation,” Difo said in Spanish. “It doesn’t if I’m not playing. I’m always preparing for that, for when the situation comes, I’ll be ready. It doesn’t matter if I’m not in the lineup. Always be ready for that reason and do the best I can in what I know what to do, play baseball.”
Difo was hitting just .255 with a .663 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 96 games for Class AA Harrisburg when he was called up to replace Stephen Drew on the active roster last week. Since the promotion, he is 5 for 10 across four games. Difo credited the better results to better luck.
“The hits are starting to fall in and that’s the good thing,” Difo said. “But here there’s no difference. It’s the same ball. It’s round.”
On Tuesday, Difo teamed up with Turner, 23, to provide speed at the top and bottom of the order. Turner went 2 for 5 with an RBI in his sixth start in center field, a position he’s still learning but transitioned well to. He has a hit in 13 of his 16 starts in the majors this season and multiple hits in seven of them.
“I’ve gotten criticism, I don’t know where it came from, that I don’t like young guys,” Baker said. “But I like young guys that I can play. So if they can play, as you see, I’ll play ya. You need that young exuberance. You need their energy, you need their speed to kind of pick us up to ignite some of the older guys so that’s what they’ve given us.”
Baker recently said the Nationals have identified what has caused Drew vertigo-like symptoms and he was feeling better. If Drew returns before Sept. 1, he will replace Difo once he returns and Difo will go back to the minors, though he would return when rosters expand Sept. 1.
“That’s what I want, for them to give me a chance and to take advantage,” Difo said. “They know I’m ready and I feel ready.”