Matt Wieters overheard talk of the Nationals record Adam Lind had set with his fourth pinch-hit home run of the season Sunday night, when he interjected for clarification.
“For a season?” the Nationals catcher asked, making a valid assumption.
“No, for a career,” he was told.
“No way!” Wieters answered.
The Nationals haven’t been around for long, but that it took Lind 47 pinch-hit plate appearances to set the club record for pinch-hit home runs — in a career, not just a season — tells of his staggering success in the role. His two-run shot in the eighth inning off Dodgers right-hander Josh Ravin in Washington’s 7-1 win over Los Angeles Sunday night set the mark, surpassing a slew of players who had amassed three. It was Lind’s 198th career home run, his 176th against a right-handed pitcher, and his 12th of the season.
After signing for $1 million just before the start of spring training, the 34-year-old Lind, who has started 27 games at first base and 23 in left field, is batting .306 with a .869 OPS in 248 at-bats as one of the anchors for perhaps the best bench in Nationals history.
“He’s a weapon. It gives me some days off, too,” Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “And you don’t really lose anything because he comes in and has four or five great at-bats even when he doesn’t play for a week. It’s pretty amazing, to be honest with you. For me, it’s the hardest thing in the sport, to be a bench guy or a pinch-hitter. They don’t get consistent at-bats and to come in and put together at-bats like he does, it’s been one of the more impressive things I’ve ever seen.”
Lind said he doesn’t know how he has become perhaps the best pinch-hitter in baseball this season. There is no science to his success, no magical approach. He just steps into the batter’s box with the usual objective of piecing together a quality at-bat. It’s the same goal he has whether he’s batting in the first inning of a start or off the bench with two outs in the ninth inning. But Lind has, for whatever reason, been prolific.
His four pinch-hit home runs are tied with the Rockies’ Pat Vailaika for the most in baseball. He’s also batting .364 as a pinch-hitter with 13 RBI.
“He has concentration,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said. “He stays in the game. He works even during the game and I think the fact that he’s played quite a bit helps him to become a good pinch-hitter. He has an idea what he’s doing when he walks up there. You try not to go more than a few days in a row without giving him an at-bat. He’s been a godsend this year to us. He’s done everything that we ask and more.”
On Sunday, Lind was in the batting cage taking swings in the top of the fifth inning, preparing for a pinch-hitting opportunity that might not have come. But it did and he came through yet again.
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