MIAMI — The Nationals lost Tuesday night, falling 3-1 to the Miami Marlins, so their missed opportunities wound up more glaring than the ones they did come through in. But that doesn’t mean they should go overlooked entirely. For Jhonatan Solano and Corey Brown they certainly wont.
Solano’s day was already probably one of the best the 26-year-old catcher has ever had. But it got that much better when Nationals manager Davey Johnson summoned him for his first major league at-bat with two outs in the top of the ninth inning against Marlins closer Heath Bell.
“It’s a little pressure,” Solano said. “There’s a lot of people in the stadium, all my family here, all together. I breathed like 50 times (and hoped) I’d get a hit.”
Solano looked at the first pitch, a 94-mph fastball from Bell. He fouled off the second.
As the third pitch arrived, Solano took a hack and slapped it down the right field line. Double.
“(Around first base) I say, ‘Wow.’” Solano said. “I can’t believe that. My first at-bat. Everybody when they play in the big leagues for the first time, of course everybody wants a hit.”
Solano also knew the situation in the game and said he prayed as he stepped to the plate that his major league debut would also not be the third out of a loss for his team. (Xavier Nady took care of that one batter later.)
“I pray on that,” Solano said. “I say ‘God, I don’t want to be the last out of the game.’ He heard my prayer and he give me a double. That’s good.”
Solano didn’t yet have the ball back in his possession, though he said he was told it was taken so they could write on it and he planned to give it to his parents when he got it back. His brother, Donovan, got his first major league hit in his first at-bat, too.
– When Corey Brown stood in the box in the top of the fifth with one out, he looked down at third base coach Bo Porter and hoped he wasn’t mistaken. Brown, who just arrived in the major leagues on Monday, thought he saw the sign for a suicide squeeze.
Ian Desmond, the Nationals’ speedy shortstop, was on third. The Nationals were having a hard time generating anything off Anibal Sanchez, Desmond’s single two batters earlier the first hit of the night for Washington. So Brown saw the sign and took a breath.
“Yesterday and today Bo was going over the signs with me,” Brown said. “I didn’t do too well passing the test. I was kind of hoping I saw it right. If you got a suicide squeeze, you kind of have to be right on point.”
Brown was. Desmond scored. Brown got his first career MLB RBI and the Nationals took a 1-0 lead that, with the way Edwin Jackson had pitched to that point, looked like it might have been enough.
“In the big leagues, it’s not easy to get signs, especially just getting called up yesterday,” Desmond said. “It was good that he got the sign, first of all, good that he got the bunt down. First RBI in the big leagues.”
It was also the first squeeze bunt Brown figured he’d actually ever been asked to execute. Brown, who had 12 homers in Triple-A before his call-up, said he practiced bunting often in Syracuse after a few failed executions early in the season.
“I was leading off, and before I started hitting all the homers, talking to (hitting coach) Troy Gingrich and (manager) Tony Beasley, they really wanted me to work on it… There was a few times down there when I didn’t do too well on sac bunts. There were a few days when they had me working a good amount in the cage. It paid off today.
“I just wanted to make sure I got the job done. I was just glad I was able to get the ball down and get the run. It felt good to get the first RBI out of the way.”