By Rich Dubroff
In spring training, it was no certainty Clint Robinson would make the Nationals. The final outfield spot came down to Mike Carp and Robinson.
Carp had six years of major league experience, and at 28, had 318 major league games and a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox.
Robinson, who turned 30 as spring training began, had played in just 13 major league games.
Halfway through the season, Robinson is providing crucial depth for the Nationals while Carp is, at least for the moment, out of baseball.
Robinson’s two-run home run in the seventh inning gave the Nationals a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants before a sellout crowd of 41,693 at Nationals Park on Friday night.
After Robinson hit his fourth home run off Jake Peavy, he took a curtain call. But not at first.
“That was as big a shot of adrenaline as you could ask for. I was a little bit late with it, I think he’d already gotten two pitches into the next batter before I got out there. I was trying to calm myself down because I was messed up inside, but it was great,” Robinson said.
Early in the season, Robinson pinch hit and played in the outfield when Bryce Harper was injured, and these days, he’s getting to play some first base because Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list.
Robinson has impressed manager Matt Williams, who obviously appreciates the feel-good story, but appreciates the attributes he offers.
“It’s perseverance, isn’t it? It’s a long time in the minor leagues with success, with success at every level, and he’s finally getting to opportunity to play in the big leagues, getting an opportunity to play on a regular basis, and showing us what he can do. He’s been very productive for us,” Williams said.
Robinson, who started in the Kansas City organization, batted over .300 three times in his first six professional seasons including winning the Triple Crown in the Texas League in 2010 before he got four at-bats with the Royals in 2012.
He spent 2013 season in both Double and Triple-A with the Toronto organization before getting in nine games with Dodgers a year ago.
Now, he’s what passes for an overnight sensation.
“I know why this didn’t happen a few years ago. There’s only 750 guys in the major leagues, and there are thousands of guys trying to get one of them. It’s just about being in the right place at the right time. That’s why you hear about guys who play for years and years and everybody always asks: ‘Why?’
“Well, it’s because eventually that opportunity is going to come hopefully. Mine came this year, and I’m trying to make the most of it,” Robinson said.
Robinson’s home run made a winner out of Gio Gonzalez, who pitched seven innings, and allowed one run on Buster Posey’s homer in the seventh. He struck out six, and for the first time this season, didn’t walk a batter.
Gonzalez (6-4) was pitching on five days rest because of a truncated start last Saturday in Philadelphia when he threw just 18 pitches before the game was rained out.
For a moment in the third inning, it looked as if Gonzalez had given himself the lead when he hit a long fly ball down the left field line. It was called foul, and Gonzalez was denied his fourth career home run.
“I knew it was foul off the bat. I didn’t want him to think I was showing [him] up. I knew it was foul,” Gonzalez said.
“I was trying to keep my head down. I didn’t know what was going on. Don’t know if it’s fair, don’t know if it’s off the wall or it’s gone. That’s the signature Gio Gonzalez move.”
Jake Peavy (0-3), making his first start since Apr. 17, pitched six excellent innings against the Nationals, allowing two hits in the first innings, and nothing else until the big home run.
Matt Thornton retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, and Drew Storen polished off the Giants in the ninth for his 24th save.
The hero was Robinson, who knows his playing time will be reduced when Zimmerman returns. He appreciates what he has.
“Every day in the big leagues is a good day. As long as I’m up here, I’m going to do the best I can to help this team win and hopefully take us into the playoffs,” Robinson said.
NOTES: Harper has equaled his season high of five games without an RBI. He walked three times. ... In his debut with the Racing Presidents, Calvin Coolidge won by pushing Teddy aside at the tape. … Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.99) faces Stephen Strasburg (5-5, 5.49) at 11:05 a.m. on Saturday.