Kurt Suzuki In the Clutch

Kurt, the Washington Nationals catcher came through in the clutch the other evening against the defending champions St. Louis Cardinals. With the game tied, the Cardinals walked Danny Espinosa to get to Kurt. And Kurt made them pay. Nice going Kurt!

The Washington Post's story about the game described it as thus:

  "And in the 10th inning, when St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny elected to walk the struggling Danny Espinosa to face Suzuki, he won the Nationals a game. Suzuki’s low liner of a double to left-center scored the winning runs in the Nationals’ 6-4 victory, and was just the latest bit of his handiwork. Since taking over from the worn-down, beleaguered Jesus Flores as the Nationals’ every-day catcher, Suzuki has added to and served to emphasize the depth in Washington’s lineup. He might hit eighth, but in his 40 games with Washington, he now has 25 RBI.... 

 What he has done is complete what is now a surprisingly potent Nationals’ lineup. Though he was hitting just .218 at the time of the trade, “I think we all knew his track record was better,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. From 2009 to 2011, Suzuki hit at least 13 homers a year, and he once drove in 88 runs. Once he found his stroke in Washington, the Nationals became better....

 But Espinosa has been flailing. He came into the at-bat 1 for his past 16. Suzuki was among the Nationals’ hottest hitters. “You definitely want to be in those situations,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I was excited that they walked Espi. That kind of lights a fire under you. . . . You want to go up there and make them pay.” So Suzuki did. His counterpart, Cardinals all-star Yadier Molina, helped matters when he allowed a passed ball, putting LaRoche at third and Espinosa at second. And then Suzuki unloaded on Salas, a line drive that hit the base of the wall in left-center. The tie was broken, and what might have been a devastating loss became a win. “I really like his approach,” Johnson said. “He’s a gamer. He likes those situations. That was huge.” 

 “To have a good defensive catcher, it seems like they always know or have a sense of what the pitcher’s going to do to him,” Zimmerman said. “He’s been huge. That’s kind of an under-the-radar acquisition as far as compared to other teams and what they’ve got.” 

 Suzuki finished his night by watching college football and eating a postgame meal with some of the Nationals’ pitchers in the visitors clubhouse. He laughed with Stephen Strasburg and asked Gio Gonzalez about something. Mid-season trades can be jarring for players and teams alike. But here was Suzuki Saturday night, fitting into the lineup and the clubhouse, helping the Nationals win a game. “I was really excited,” he said. “Coming to the best team in baseball, how can you complain?”

 And with the Nationals clinching the National League East division title, it's on to the post season playoffs. I'm hoping to see Kurt do well, being on the big national stage. This is exciting for me as a DC sports fan, to see the Nationals rise from the ashes of being a horrible team over the last 6 years into a legitimate contender to compete for the World Series championship. There are no guarantees, though. There are plenty of tough teams out there in the playoffs. But I liken it to the feeling I had of seeing Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants. It was great to see an Asian American male succeed on a national stage. I'm hoping that Kurt will be able to as well.
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