When Jose Lobaton saw his third-inning line drive carom off the right-center field scoreboard at Nationals Park on Friday night, the backup catcher had a decision to make: Either settle for the sure-fire double, or go for the glory of notching his third career triple.
So it was a thrill for teammates to see Lobaton, known as one of the Nats' biggest clubhouse comedians, round second and begin digging for third in his typically humorous way as Twins second baseman Brian Dozier aimed to throw him out on the relay from centerfielder Byron Buxton.
"When I was half between second and third I was like, 'Oh my god, what am I doing here?'" Lobaton said afterward. "It was great."
Lobaton did slide safely into third — and kept going right through the bag. He'd gone far enough off the base that, while still laying on the ground, quickly turned back to touch it and avoid being tagged out by Minnesota third baseman Eduardo Nunez. He was called safe, the Nats padded a lead they wouldn't relinquish, and the dugout was all smiles.
"I couldn’t control my body and then I passed the bag," Lobaton said of the slide. "That was great, that was a good moment. That was funny for the team."
The comedic moment lingered postgame, as Bryce Harper could be heard chuckling when Lobaton began recounting the tale of his three-bagger at his locker. Harper wasn't the only one still laughing.
"I mean, slow it down, cowboy," starter Gio Gonzalez said.
"Probably one of the most entertaining triples that you’ll ever see," added manager Dusty Baker.
Of course, the 31-year-old's role is more than merely providing entertainment. Going back to last season, he's essentially acted as Gonzalez' primary catcher. And so far this year, whatever the pair have been working on has been successful: Gonzalez has turned in three straight quality outings to start the season, and Friday night's effort gave the 30-year-old left hander his first win of 2016.
"Lobi's just gold back there," Gonzalez said. "I like the way he calls a game, I like the way he catches."
Prior to Friday, Gonzalez and Lobaton had worked a total in 34 games together, with the former owning a 3.31 ERA — his best mark with any catcher he's been paired with 15 times or more.
"I’ve tried to concentrate more on being a good catcher and call a good game for Gio," Lobaton said. "But at same time want to do something good for the team."
Which is why for Lobaton, who only gets to play every so often and whose contributions usually go unseen, maximizing opportunity is especially satisfying — no matter how funny it looks.
“I love my job," he said. "I love what I’m doing. I try to enjoy everyday. And if I’m not playing, I try to have fun and that’s part of my game.”