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Moore connects for rare pinch-hit homer

May 14, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

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PHOENIX — It’s perhaps the toughest task in baseball, coming off the bench cold and asked to deliver a big hit late in a close ballgame. And Tyler Moore has spent the better part of four seasons now trying to get better at something so many accomplished players simply can’t perfect.

So when Moore came through with his biggest hit of the young season Wednesday afternoon, crushing a game-tying, 2-run homer off the foul pole in the top of the sixth at Chase Field, it felt particularly significant for the Nationals’ reserve outfielder/first baseman.

“Those are really nice,” said Moore, who hadn’t homered as a pinch-hitter since Sept. 2012. “But it feels the exact opposite when you go up there and ground out or strikeout or whatever it is. It’s good just to come in and put the barrel of the bat on the ball and kind of get some life back into the team.”

Moore’s pinch-hit homer off Randal Delgado was a key blast in what became a 9-6 victory for the Nationals over the Diamondbacks. And it was the latest hit off the bench for Moore, who has to date become far more productive in this role than he has been in awhile.

After making a name for himself as a clutch bench player during his rookie season in 2012, Moore really struggled to produce in a reserve role the last two seasons. He was a combined 2-for-32 with 20 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter in 2013 and 2014.

That may be changing in 2015. Moore now is 4-for-15 as a pinch-hitter this season, a more-than-respectable .267 batting average in a role that often leads to sub-Mendoza Line numbers for others.

Moore has gotten better at it over the last few years, recognizing the need to be aggressive as a pinch-hitter without trying too hard to change the game on one swing.

“I think you’ve just got to really know the situation,” Moore said. “Sometimes there’s points to being aggressive. And then sometimes … maybe you haven’t seen a [pitcher] … You just want to be hunting in the zone and just ready to hit, basically.”

It has taken Moore several years to get the hang of pinch-hitting, and he still goes through his slumps at the plate. But he has shown signs of progress, as has the Nationals bench as a whole. After seeing their pinch-hitters bat a collective .144 last season, they’ve improved that number to .214 this season.

It may not sound like much, but the Nationals now rank 16th in the majors in pinch-hit batting average, 14th in OPS.

“Coming off the bench is never really a comfortable spot,” Moore said. “You want to get in there and give yourself the best chance to succeed. Those guys are out there fighting. You just want to do good for the team. So I was glad I was able to help out a little bit today.”

  1. laddieblahblah - May 14, 2015 at 6:32 AM

    The pinch-hitting numbers, alone, do not come close to explaining the impact of this year’s bench. Taylor, too, came off the bench yesterday. The bench produced 2 HRs and drove in 6 of the 9 the Nats scored yesterday. It was another game that the bench won for the Nats.

    • ehay2k - May 14, 2015 at 8:04 AM

      And pitched a shutout inning. This is the most versatile bench we’ve ever had!

      • natsjackinfl - May 14, 2015 at 8:23 AM

        I can almost see JayB’s eyes roll on that last statement.

      • ehay2k - May 14, 2015 at 8:30 AM

        Hey, a positive is a positive!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 8:14 AM

      Since April 28th, think of what the bench has done in the last 2+ weeks with Uggla, Lobaton in that Barves series and TyMo and Taylor yesterday.

      Add to that the impact of Reed Johnson before he went on the DL. Clint Robinson wasn’t brought here as a relief pitcher and has to step it up.

      • rayvil01 - May 14, 2015 at 8:27 AM

        This bench is better than last year’s version, for sure.

        I’m not sure you could reasonably ask for much more than they’ve gotten from this bunch. Bench wins are organization wins. FP said Rizzo was screaming when MAT hit that slam yesterday. He had good reason.

      • ArVAFan - May 14, 2015 at 8:30 AM

        Or “unreasonably” ask. We don’t ask bench players to pitch too often . . but then Fister was a pinch runner. Turn about is fair play, right?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 8:43 AM

        Fister also is batting 1.000 as a pinch-hitter.

      • natsjackinfl - May 14, 2015 at 8:32 AM

        Fister was not only a pinch runner, I also witnessed him being a successful pinch hitter.

      • nataddicted - May 14, 2015 at 11:15 AM

        Fister is an amazing athlete, I hope we find a way to keep him beyond this season!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 1:20 PM

      Well said and the bench is winning games with big hits, Uggla, Lobaton, Moore and Taylor all have game change and game winning HRs now.

      Nats are now 14th in PH OPS now and were 29th last year.

  2. dcwx61 - May 14, 2015 at 8:52 AM

    and Desi leads the league in errors again…A. Cabrera has 0.

    but yes, MAT and Uggla have given this bench a shot in the arm….now let’s get another arm for the BP

    • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 9:22 AM

      Somebody like, say, Janssen? 😉

      • dcwx61 - May 14, 2015 at 10:44 PM

        he can’t huuiit

    • Muddy Ruel - May 14, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      Speaking of errors, I don’t think Werth deserved one on the throw home yesterday. It was a good one-hopper to the catcher, which would have gotten the runner had Lobaton caught it IMO. How is that an error on Werth? If an error had to be assigned, it should be Lobaton’s; but I don’t think one had to be assigned there. The runner took 3rd on the throw home. Period. Anyway, it’s not Werth’s fault that the runner got to 3rd. It’s been noted that metrics based on official scoring are subjective, which is why people like OBP. And on that subject, I like the OBP to include on-base-with-errors. What’s the good of OBP if you don’t include on-base-with-errors? A guy who hits a lot of hard ground-balls should be rewarded with OBP vs. a guy who hits a lot of fly balls. Okay, vent over …

      • Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 10:23 AM

        I started to answer you, Muddy, but I think I’ll leave it alone.

      • tcostant - May 14, 2015 at 10:37 AM

        I agree with Muddy, but if throw hits the dirt they will always give that error to the OFered.

      • homeparkdc - May 14, 2015 at 10:44 AM

        Thank you, Joe. It’s so much to read when it gets started. 🙂

      • Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 10:46 AM

        I agree with Muddy 100% on the OBP stat regarding errors. Never have totally understood a guy’s BA, or at least his OBP suffering when the fielder flubs a hard hit ball.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 1:23 PM

        The only reason there was an error is because the throw got away from Lobaton and the runner advanced. If the runner stayed at 2nd, no error.

        I don’t blame Lobaton for not catching the ball, but agree the error should be on him for not blocking it.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 1:51 PM

        Well written piece here regarding both of your points, Muddy, and then some:
        http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/124209700/mlb-5-most-frustrating-stats-wins-above-replacement-war-pitcher-wins-errors-rbi-saves?partnerId=ed-9224409-658620023

      • Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 1:58 PM

        One thing on the play yesterday: we have all seen much poorer throws and the fielder not be charged with an error. I tend to grade errors tough, but I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if the league reviews the call and reverses the official scorer’s decision to no error on the play.

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - May 14, 2015 at 2:47 PM

        I was unaware the league routinely reviewed decisions by the official scorer without a timely request by one of the teams involved. Aren’t teams supposed to petition the OS within 24 hours, or something like that?

  3. Doc - May 14, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    Making the bench more effective, also means getting them into the lineup as regulars occasionally.

    No reason for TyMo not to be spelling Zim or Werth at least 1X/week. Same with MAT and Span. MW needs to release his inner Bochy, who has been known to win a few WS titles.

  4. adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    The best managers adopt their style to the strengths of their team. Davey Johnson was great at that. He took a Reds team that was fast and didn’t steal any bases to a team that led the league in SB’s within two years. He played small ball when he didn’t have boppers, and AL ball when he had HR hitters.

    Fact is, the Nats seem to be boppers. All nine runs yesterday came on HR’s. The day before, the Nats had 1 HR and four doubles. On Sat night, the 8-6 win over the Barves, 7 runs came from HR’s. The Nats are 7th in BA, but virtually tied for 3rd in SLG, and 3rd in runs/game.

    The above facts point to a team that ought to play small ball a bit less than the average team.

    • laddieblahblah - May 14, 2015 at 9:47 AM

      And Werth and RZim seem to be just warming up, with Rendon not yet even in the lineup. And Espinosa is batting over .250, RH and LH combined. The more Danny is successful with that new, improved approach, the more likely he is to stick with it. Well, I hope so, anyway.

      I wonder how much Bryce’s success with his disciplined, selective approach has influenced the lineup, overall. People tend to see success, and emulate it, or, at least, try to emulate it. You cannot do much better than to watch Bryce, and try to do as he does.

      That last HR he hit in Phoenix was not a hard swing. He was actually a little off-balance as he reached for a pitch outside that, apparently, had fooled him, and he merely tried to barrel it up as best he could. It was an off-speed pitch so his bat got out in front of that pitch and he pulled it. Normally you would expect that ball to be rolled over to the 2nd baseman, but Harp did get the barrel on the ball and drove it all the way into the RF stands.

      Now, that was impressive.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 9:59 AM

        Agreed on the affect that a guy like Harper can have on others. I hope that he, and the leagues umpires, puts yesterday behind.

        Another impressive stat, though still a somewhat small sample size, is Span’s 6 strike outs in 88 plate appearances. That’s one K every 14.7 trips to the plate. That is a great stat for anybody, but especially for a leadoff batter.

      • npb99 - May 14, 2015 at 12:30 PM

        Replying to Joe- Span has really grown on me. He’s a real pro in every aspect of the game.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 1:25 PM

      They are bopping with good swings. Very impressive swing by Taylor. So calm.

      I just have a hard time with all the mistakes on pitching and defense yesterday.

      • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 3:05 PM

        particularly the defense . . uggh

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 3:19 PM

        What was Barrett thinking in that sequence to Tomas?

        What was Gio doing with Trumbo?

  5. Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 9:42 AM

    Tyler Moore and Michael Taylor deserve every ounce of credit being thrown their way. Gutty AB’s by both of them. Credit also to Span and Escobar’s one out hits, along with Werth’s Drake assisted walk. MAT coming up with one out is a hugely different stress level than coming up with two outs and the game on the line. A sac fly would’ve been a productive AB there. A grand salami was of course, much better!

    • homeparkdc - May 14, 2015 at 11:22 AM

      Tyler Moore’s not getting enough love on the Nats’ Depth Chart page either. They have T. Hill listed in RF. Unless, of course, it’s part of the new switches between pitchers and position players.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 1:26 PM

      Joe, +1 well said

  6. masterfishkeeper - May 14, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    Fangraphs article on Strasburg, but it doesn’t really add much to what’s already been discussed at various places:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/whats-going-on-with-stephen-strasburg/

    • Doc - May 14, 2015 at 10:29 AM

      Thanks for the link. It helped me understand the implications of his previously injured much better.

  7. adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 10:13 AM

    OK, stat-heads (yes, NL, I’m looking at you!)

    When was the last time the Nats had two pinch-hit HR’s in a game?

    Inquiring stat geeks want to know!

    • ITGSOT - May 14, 2015 at 11:25 AM

      Taylor’s HR wasn’t a pinch hit. He entered the game right after Harper was ejected and played a couple innings in RF before coming up to bat. Technically he was a defensive substitution for Harper.

      • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 11:27 AM

        Oooh, nice catch. You are completely correct, sir!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 1:41 PM

        Correct, MASN tested out the same incorrectly. Still a bench HR! 🙂

    • NatsLady - May 14, 2015 at 12:51 PM

      Three years ago today, May 14, 2012, Xavier Nady and Chad Tracy both homered as pinch hitters. The Nats beat the Padres, 8-5. They did it in the SAME INNING.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL197307132.shtml

      On July 13, 1973 the Expos beat Atlanta 11-7 in the first game of a doubleheader. Jim Lyttle pinch hit and homered in the top of the 6th. In the top of the 7th, Hal Breeden pinch hit for Boots Day and hit a homer.

      In the second game of the double header, the Expos lost 15-9. Jim Lyttle, however, homered again as a pinch hitter.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL197307131.shtml
      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL197307132.shtml

      Also, July 22, 1989.
      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL197307132.shtml

      I thought you were getting play index so you could do this yourself, wonk.

      • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 8:20 PM

        Thanks for the work, NL!

        (To be utterly frank, I already spend too much time at work on b-r & NI, I’m scared of what would happen if I got play index!)

  8. tcostant - May 14, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    More power ratings, we’re coming after you Mets: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/mlb-power-rankings–are-the-yankees-for-real-143213467.html

  9. alexva6 - May 14, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    they have given Moore another chance and he may capitalize on this one. I like the combination of him and Robinson as pinch-hitters .

    still not convinced that every day in AAA isn’t the best long term option for Taylor, but I can’t deny he has talent and may help the team win games in the short term

    • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 10:56 AM

      still not convinced that every day in AAA isn’t the best long term option for Taylor,

      I agree with you — it probably is. But I’m thinking that the Nats are thinking that it’s possible he can “grow enough” while up here, and in the meantime make some good contributions. In other words, I think they are trying to balance between: (a) it’s better long term for him and us if he’s in AAA; and (b) it’s better for us in the short term if he’s up in the bigs.

      • virginiascopist - May 14, 2015 at 11:14 AM

        That should work out perfectly, balance-wise: Short term, he will be here helping the team in the bigs; long term, when Rendon comes back and assuming nobody else gets put on the DL, he will go back to Syracuse where he can play/learn every day.

      • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 11:29 AM

        Bingo. Yep — that makes a whole lotta sense.

        (It’s funny, as I was writing the above comment, I had a voice in the back of my mind saying, “MAT is just here until, until, hmmm, I dunno.”

        I completely forgot about Rendon (a scary thouht). Duh. Yes, that’s exactly why MAT is up here, and I’m sure your description is the current tentative gameplan. Nice job.

      • Section 222 - May 14, 2015 at 12:12 PM

        There was time when it seemed either Espi or Uggla would go when Rendon returned. Now, despite his heroics yesterday, I would expect MAT to return to ‘Cuse. Uggla, TyMo, and CRob off the bench seems to be working, and MAT has options. If Bryce gets tossed again, TyMo or CRob will have to play some D. It’s not ideal, but I just don”t see the Nats cutting ties with of the three vets.

      • NatsLady - May 14, 2015 at 12:55 PM

        Tyler Moore is out of options. He’s not going back to Syracuse.
        http://www.rosterresource.com/mlb-washington-nationals/

    • ITGSOT - May 14, 2015 at 11:28 AM

      He needs to add some MLB smarts to his game at the plate and on the bases. He can’t do that in AAA.

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 14, 2015 at 1:26 PM

      Like it or not, one of the trio T Moore/Robinson/Uggla is going to have to make room for Rendon when he returns. Having all three of those bats on the bench would be great, but the only way to do that would be to carry T Moore/Robinson as the 4/5 outfielders AND a third string second baseman AND two backup first basemen. One of those ANDs needs to be replaced with an OR in that equation. The decision will be made by ranking the three guys from a bench/PH perspective, and for whoever is number three it will be sorry, Charlie.

  10. homeparkdc - May 14, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    In all the excitement about the Curly W, the one person who hasn’t gotten any credit is Matt Williams with his third inning stomp to the mound. Just sayin’….

    • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 12:42 PM

      Good point.

      BTW, any links to stories on that particular conversation?

      • homeparkdc - May 14, 2015 at 1:45 PM

        “Gonzalez issued a two-out walk, and Williams ran out to the mound instead of pitching coach Steve McCatty. With the entire infield there, Williams animatedly commanded Gonzalez to throw more strikes. A fire lit under him, Gonzalez got out of the inning and fired two more innings, allowing one more run.”
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/taylor-slams-diamondbacks-in-ninth-to-lift-nationals-to-9-6-win/2015/05/13/98b4b678-f985-11e4-9ef4-1bb7ce3b3fb7_story.html?wprss=rss_sports

        That’s the only one I’ve seen.

      • adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 3:06 PM

        Thanks — that’s all I saw, too.

        My whole life I’ve wanted to know what gets said at mound-meetings. But never more than yesterday.

        Did he say, “WTF, Gio, throw strikes or I’ll xyz”? Or was it lighter than that? Or harsher than that? What it as simple as that? And what was the xyz?

        Lifelong baseball fans want to know!

      • natsfan1a - May 14, 2015 at 3:16 PM

        My guess, as noted earlier, was “Don’t make me bring Clinton Robinson, because I will do it.” 😉

        I would so love to see or hear “McCatty’s biggest mound visit hits, uncut version.”

      • natsfan1a - May 14, 2015 at 3:17 PM

        WTH? I don’t have autocorrect on my desktop. How did “Clint Robinson in” become “Clinton Robinson”? Evidently a synapse lapse that traveled down to my fingers. Sigh.

    • Section 222 - May 14, 2015 at 12:45 PM

      Too bad he wasn’t around to stomp to the mound in the 8th.

      • homeparkdc - May 14, 2015 at 1:38 PM

        He was bonding with Harper according to ESP(I)N.

      • Section 222 - May 14, 2015 at 4:11 PM

        FP was joking about them having a cold one in the locker room — soda for Bryce of course.

  11. Drew - May 14, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    It will be interesting to see who goes when Rendon returns.

    TyMo certainly has to stay. He’s the backup first baseman. (Matt Skole turns 26 this summer and he’s still below Mendoza in Harrisburg.)

    So they’ll send MAT down or release Uggla. I would like to see MAT play every day, but with him at the Cuse the Nats don’t have any backup OFs with athleticism.

    In a pinch I guess Harper could play center and Werth right while TyMo kills grass in left.

    • Section 222 - May 14, 2015 at 12:47 PM

      Like I said, it’s not ideal. Still, Uggla has played well enough to stay. I guess we’ll see. And of course, by the time TTB returns, we could have another injury.

    • virginiascopist - May 14, 2015 at 1:05 PM

      “… the Nats don’t have any backup OFs with athleticism.”

      In that vein, I would kind of like to see what Espi can do in the outfield.

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 14, 2015 at 1:28 PM

      Clint Robinson is also a backup first baseman. You only need one.

      • infideljack - May 14, 2015 at 3:29 PM

        Robinson is the LHB off the bench. He stays. Pretty sure that Espi would be a more than adequate OF and he may move there in a couple of years when the super prospects move up. In a pinch, I think Espi could fill any position on the fielding catcher for a short time. In a 16 inning game he might enven pitch.

  12. adcwonk - May 14, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    Hard luck Rockies.

    Losers of 10 straight, they were hoping to change their luck last night.

    I didn’t get the entire story, from what I’ve gathered (I’m sure the denizens here can add more), the following happened:

    – manager left for hospital for emergency appendectomy during batting practice
    – Rockies starter left in the first inning when a line drive hit his hand.
    – Trout leaped at the wall in the 10th to take a homer away from Troy Tulowitzki
    – In the 11th, Trout made a running catch on Daniel Descalso’s fly and uncorked a perfect throw to get Gonzalez at the plate. Umpire Phil Cuzzi initially called Gonzalez safe, but it was overturned by video review.

    All told, they lost 2-1, for their 11th straight loss.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2015 at 2:35 PM

      The Trout catch over the wall was not a circus catch and was like Cuddyer catching RZim’s last week, but Trout on the play at home was amazing and initially Cuzzi called the runner safe and it was overturned. The throw was on a frozen rope home with no hop and the catcher caught it at knee level and sweeped the tag.

      4 runners were thrown out at the plate yesterday in different games. Francouer, Trout and Giancarlo all threw perfect strikes to their catchers.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 3:40 PM

        No argument from last night. You’re right.

        But in 2013 Juan Lagares led the league in outfield assists. Check out the tape of how many of his throws to the plate were one hops:

  13. Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    7 assists at the plate, 6 on the hop. Their catcher must have just been lucky.

    • Section 222 - May 14, 2015 at 4:11 PM

      hee hee hee.

    • Section 222 - May 14, 2015 at 4:14 PM

      Interestingly, not all of the throws were perfectly on line. The catcher (or catchers) wasn’t lucky, he was good.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2015 at 5:57 PM

        I think that you’ll see that there were at least two, if not three different catchers on the different plays. Of course, I was being facetious. But I officially rest my case with the closing arguments that there are lots of times for both throwing approaches, and it doesn’t take a first baseman’s mitt to catch a one hop bounce throw.

      • Section 222 - May 14, 2015 at 6:05 PM

        I think you’ve made the case very well. And I would note that almost all of those one hop throws could have been cut off if the infielder had decided to do so.

  14. Joe Seamhead - May 15, 2015 at 6:05 AM

    It was actually four different catchers. d’Arnaud, Centino, Buck,and Recker that made 6 outs on one hop throws to the plate from Lagares. Just lucky, I guess.

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