It was the top of the 8th inning. The Phillies were cruising by the Nationals behind the left arm of King Cole Hamels, winning 4-0. There were 2 outs and Jeff Conine was standing at second base. Up strolled Abraham Nunez to the plate with an 0-3 collar around his neck. His 198 batting average and 522 OPS has become a sort of odd wonder, such that Sportszilla has chronicled his assault on the 500 OPS mark. His designation as starting third baseman defies any sort of logic, and yet the words Scott Graham, Phillies broadcaster, was about to utter would shake the ground that I stood upon:
“Well, with two outs and the pitcher behind him, the Nationals are going to intentionally walk Abraham Nunez to get to Cole Hamels.”
Yes. That’s right. Abraham Nunez was intentionally walked as though he were the Ryan Howard of 8 hole hitters. With 2 outs and the worst starting major leaguer in the past 6 seasons up at the plate, Frank Robinson had the stellar idea of letting that guy get on base to, as the illustrious Chris Wheeler would say, ‘turn the lineup over’. Instead of the pitcher’s spot leading off the top of the 9th, Jimmy Rollins led off the 9th.
Now, it ‘worked’ in that Cole Hamels struck out to end the inning. But three straight hits were given up in the 9th inning, and the Phillies were able to score a run on a sacrifice fly that might not have been set up if a pinch hitter came in to lead off the inning. The simple fact that the worst starting player in the Majors was GIVEN a base is simply mindboggling. To give Abe Nunez ANYTHING is just…wow.