The Washington Nationals needed 15 innings to secure a much needed 8-7 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night (into Sunday morning), but there's a decent chance they would have wrapped it up one inning sooner had it not been for the single-handed effort of Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
With the game obviously tied, runners on first and second base and only one out, Nats skipper Davey Johnson was forced to leave in reliever Craig Stammen to hit for himself since they had no other alternatives on the bench or in the bullpen. I understand bunting is everyone's least favorite strategy these days, but if there was ever a time for it, this was certainly it. But of course Johnson went the other direction and had Stammen pull back and swing away. The result of that decision was a soft two hopper to the position where the shortstop would normally be, only Simmons was on the move to cover third base.
Taking all of the moving parts into consideration, Stammen's grounder seemed like it would work out fine for Washington. At worst he'd have an infield single if Simmons recovered to knock it down. At best it squirts through and Washington takes the lead. But Andrelton Simmons had other ideas on this night. As soon as he saw Stammen pull back, he changed directions on a dime and accelerated immediately to cut the ball off.
But that was just part one of his remarkable effort. After cutting the ball off, Simmons again had to change directions quickly to beat the runner, Roger Bernadina, to the bag. He did that. And then capped the play off by making an incredible off balance throw to first base to complete the 6-3 double play.
Granted, it helped a lot that a relief pitcher was running out of the box, but Simmons' effort and determination to finish the play was outstanding. With an emphasis on finishing the play. There were a couple points in that short amount of time where he could have let up or been satisfied with taking the single out. It was the 14th inning after all. There had also been rain off and on and the field conditions were less than ideal. But Simmons finished it off, and he gave his team one more chance to win a game.
Hang a gold star by that one.