Craig Heist, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – This was not the way Nationals catcher Sandy Leon had envisioned his Major League debut turning out.
After getting called up from Double-A Harrisburg after the torn ACL injury suffered by Wilson Ramos Saturday night in Cincinnati, Leon got the start behind the plate Monday night, catching Ross Detwiler in the Nats 8-5 win over the Padres.
Leon, known for his defensive ability was also getting the job done with the bat for the Senators, hitting .319 with one home run and 12 RBI. Ten of his 30 hits were doubles while posting an on base percentage of .356 and a slugging percentage of .457.
Monday night his debut turned into a nightmare as Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson singled to right field scoring Yonder Alonso. With Chase Headley coming right behind him, the relay throw to the plate by Danny Espinosa wasn’t in time and Headley barreled into Leon, who had his leg twist awkwardly on the play.
Leon stayed down for a few minutes and then was helped off, not able to put weight on his right leg. He was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and will be placed on the disabled list with Carlos Maldonado getting set to join the club from Triple-A Syracuse.
“It was a clean play,” said Nats manager Davey Johnson. “He was waiting on the throw and the runner beat the throw.”
Leon is just another casualty for this club who has suffered through more than their share of injuries in the first six weeks on this season but for Johnson, it was particularly difficult to see the 23-year old from Venezuela go down under the circumstances.
“I mean such an outstanding young man, his first big league game, all pumped up and have to get hurt in his first game, that’s tough.”
Jesus Flores replaced Leon behind the plate and Johnson said he would likely start game two of the series Tuesday against the Padres. He has now seen Leon go down and after what happened with Ramos his knee ligament, Flores must be a little leery of going behind the plate.
“With what happened and with Ramos’ knee, you have to wonder, is something going on? Hopefully, it will stop happening,” Flores said.
First of many
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper his first Major League home run in the third inning with two outs off Padres starter Tim Stauffer.
Harper hit it to center field up on the grass of the batters-eye and as he rounded the bases, got a standing ovation from the 19,434 on hand to see it and then had to come back out of the dugout for a curtain call.
It was pretty cool and I was pretty excited about that,” Harper said of the curtain call. “I wasn’t sure if I should have went up there but all the veteran guys were like, go, go get it, so I did. It was pretty cool.”
The home run came in Harper’s 15th game since joining the club on April 28. You would think he would be a little pumped up after that but afterward, his enthusiasm was held in check to a degree.
“I guess I have no words for it,” he said. “It’s just another home run in the books I guess. Hopefully it’s just one of many and now I will just try and get past that AB and get some other AB’s going.”
Johnson felt a little differently because he knows Harper goes 100 miles-an-hour most of the time.
“I thought it was great,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to calm him down any. I think that’s impossible but it was good to see him hit the ball hard.”
Stammen to the rescue
Craig Stammen turned in another stellar relief effort for the Nationals.
He entered the game in the sixth inning with the Nats trailing 5-4 and the right-hander threw up two scoreless innings, striking out three as the Nats put up two runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead making him the pitcher of record. Stammen is now 3-0 on the season with an ERA of 1.29 and his success comes from how confident he is on the hill.
“It all comes down to that with the success I had last year and the beginning of this year,” he said. “Whenever someone is confident, you never know what they accomplish physically with their mind.”
After giving up Joey Votto’s grand slam home run to give the Reds a 9-6 win on Sunday, Nats closer Henry Rodriguez walked the bases loaded Monday night with a three-run lead.
Davey Johnson, who said before the game he wasn’t going to answer any more questions as to whether or not Rodriguez was his closer, had to go to Sean Burnett to try and get the final two outs and preserve the win.
Burnett did just that by getting Jesus Guzman to hit a come-backer to the mound and Burnett started a very clean 1-2-3 double play to end the game.
“You know, I still haven’t lost confidence in Henry,” Johnson said after the game. “But that was his third day in a row going and he threw a lot of pitches in Cincy so I’ll probably give him off tomorrow regardless.”
He’s been so dominant the whole year, to have a couple of hiccups, that’s part of the game,” Burnett said. “You just go out there and try and help your partner and try and save the game for him and the team. You know, we all try and pick each other up and that’s what we were able to do.”