Following his team's 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Labor Day, Dusty Baker emerged from his clubhouse office at Nationals Park clutching five bottles of his signature 'Baker Family' red wine, each sporting a label with baseball seams printed on them, an ode to Dusty's day job as manager of the Nats.
He muttered a question aloud as reporters surrounded Trea Turner for an interview.
"Where's Chris Heisey's locker?"
Baker was looking to drop off gifts for Heisey and others after the Nats' 80th victory of the season, this one paved in part by five bench players who each contributed to varying degrees on offense. Those five: Heisey, Ben Revere, Jose Lobaton, Brian Goodwin and Clint Robinson filled in admirably for five regulars who all took the day off following a quick turnaround from the team's Sunday night game in New York.
The Nats got back to D.C. at 3 a.m. early Monday morning and many didn't get to sleep until four. They then had to get up for a 4 p.m. game on Monday and report hours before first pitch.
Baker essentially asked his bench to do him a favor and every single one of them came through.
"That's what they're here for," Baker said. "I've always said you can't win with just your regulars. You've got to get those other guys some opportunities to play. We feel very confident, especially for a short period of time, that those guys can do the job. The circle is not complete unless you're dependent on everybody in that circle. Everybody in that circle is important."
Heisey hit a three-run homer in the third inning. Lobaton had two hits and scored a run. Revere doubled and scored, while Goodwin doubled and Robinson drew a walk. Collectively, those five accounted for three runs, which made the difference in a two-run game.
That effort was appreciated by Baker, but also their teammates, whom they picked up.
"We went to sleep at 4 a.m. Everybody's a zombie. For these guys to come out and give that type of effort, especially against this team, that's huge," starter Max Scherzer said.
"That takes a lot of heart because not everybody's feeling the best… When you see the bench guys go out there and have success and hit home runs, that's everybody doing their jobs and grinding away in September."
"Thankfully, we got the job done as a whole," Turner said. "It’s fun seeing everybody have success. I enjoy watching teammates have success, it’s special.”
For Heisey, he now has nine homers on the season. He has homered once every 14 at-bats, which is best on the Nats. If he had the plate appearances to qualify, that would rank second in the majors behind Mark Trumbo of the Orioles.
Baker knows Heisey's value as much as anyone, as the skipper also coached him in Cincinnati. With nine home runs, Heisey has the most he's put up since 2013 when he was with the Reds.
"That's his job. He knew that when he signed on for this. And he's been one of the best at it," Baker said. "He works on it in BP, and when you're putting this puzzle together, he's one of the pieces that from the right side has some power."
Heisey led the way for a Nats bench that made life a lot easier than it could have been on Baker and the Nationals. And for a team that appears headed towards the playoffs, their depth could come in handy down the road in October.
"That was a big day today, to win that game," Baker said. "The regulars got a day off, get a good night sleep. [Bryce Harper] said it best, sitting next to me in the dugout. He said, 'I love this team because we are a team.' That's the kind of attitude you want to have on a team."
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