Washington manager Frank Robinson cries at a press conference after a win over Houston. Robinson was sad about taking out catcher Matt LeCroy.
WASHINGTON - Tears of sadness streamed down both of Frank Robinson’s cheeks, and his voice quivered, even in the aftermath of an 8-5 victory. The Washington Nationals manager had been cornered into a move rarely seen in baseball, the benching of a catcher in the middle of an inning.
The Houston Astros had stolen seven bases — the most by any team in the majors in nearly four years — against third-string catcher Matthew LeCroy. After three batters in the seventh inning, with the tying run on base and shortly after LeCroy had committed his second error by throwing a ball into center field, Robinson pulled him for emergency catcher Robert Fick.
“If my daddy was managing this team, I’m sure he would have done the same thing,” LeCroy said.
Robinson took it a lot harder.
“I feel for him,” Robinson said. “And I hope the fans understand. And I just appreciate him hanging in there as long as he did.”
The Nationals captured their third straight victory and fifth win in six games. They are playing their best baseball of the season, but Robinson couldn’t overcome the emotions he felt after putting a veteran through an embarrassing scene. LeCroy, who handles pitchers well but has a suspect arm, was starting because Brian Schneider and Wiki Gonzalez were hurt.
“It’s not LeCroy’s fault. We know his shortcoming,” Robinson said. “They took advantage of them today. ... I wasn’t trying to embarrass him in any way. It’s just a move that at that time I felt like I had to do for the good of the ballclub. That would have been a very devastating loss for those guys, and I’m just happy they held together out there.”
LeCroy, Gonzalez and Fick are the Nationals’ backup-by-committee for Schneider, who is scheduled to come off the disabled list Friday after missing 14 games with a hamstring injury. Gonzalez was unavailable after getting a concussion Wednesday night when he was hit in the head by a backswing.
“It was a tough day,” LeCroy said. “They were running all over the place. A couple of no-throws, and a couple of balls I shouldn’t have thrown ended up going into the outfield, which you can’t let that happen, especially when you’re up four or five runs. Ain’t nothing you can do, just try to keep coming back day-in and day-out.”
LeCroy said he didn’t blame Robinson for the mid-inning benching.
“I’m man enough to take it. I don’t think he should get that emotional about it,” LeCroy said. “Hey, he’s doing his job, just like I would do if I was in his position.”
Once the tears are dry, Robinson will be able to find plenty of pleasing thoughts about his team.
Jose Vidro hit a three-run homer and had four RBIs. Tony Armas (5-2) won his fifth straight decision. Nick Johnson broke an 0-for-16 slump with an RBI single. Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano scored three runs. Rookie Ryan Zimmerman had three RBIs and had another stellar game defensively. The Nationals have won back-to-back series and have their longest home winning streak of the season.
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