Gerardo Parra is a former Gold Glove winner in the outfield who continues to be challenged with his footwork as the Washington Nationals’ fill-in first baseman.
But the desperate Nationals will gladly overlook Parra’s inexperience at first because the former San Francisco Giant has been clutch at the plate, leading his new club Thursday to a 7-6 win over the New York Mets.
Parra went 3-for-3 with a walk, drove in three runs and scored three more as the underachieving Nationals captured their first series win in about a month.
Now in his 11th major league season, Parra slammed a two-run homer in the fifth off Mets starter Zach Wheeler to snap a tie and the Nationals held on to win even though closer Sean Doolittle allowed two runs in the ninth at Nationals Park.
“That is what I do every day,” Parra said of bringing energy to the Nationals. “I try to swing at good pitches. That is the key right now.”
Parra, 32, hit .198 in 30 games earlier this season with San Francisco before he was let go by the Giants.
The Venezuela native was picked up on May 9 by the Nationals (18-25), and since then has two homers and seven RBI in five games. He hit a grand slam on Saturday in Los Angeles as the Nationals came back to beat the Dodgers, helping to earn a series split with the first-place club.
“He has been tremendous,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He just loves to play the game. He is very vocal in the clubhouse. Especially with the Latin players, he has been very, very good.”
With Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman both on the injured list, Parra is the fourth first baseman the Nationals have used this season. Howie Kendrick has also filled in there.
Parra was a Gold Glove outfielder with Arizona in 2011 and 2013. But before this season, the last time Parra played first in the majors was in six games with the Colorado Rockies in 2017. He has played just 29 career games at first, including four this month with the Nationals.
“He looks pretty comfortable over there, he really does,” Martinez said.
Martinez said Parra has been taking grounders every day with Tim Bogar, the Nationals’ first base coach who also works with infielders.
Parra hit sixth in the lineup Thursday while catcher Kurt Suzuki, batting behind him, had three hits and drove in two runs.
The last time the Nationals won a series was also at home, April 16-18 against the Giants.
“It is huge,” Suzuki said of the series win.
It would have been a gut-wrenching loss had the Mets come back to win.
The Nationals scored four runs in the bottom of the first and then lost starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez in the second inning with a hamstring injury.
The Mets tied the game with four runs of their own in the third, as outfielder Michael Conforto hit a three-run homer for a 4-4 score. The Nationals got a break when Conforto had to leave the game in the bottom of the fifth when he ran into second baseman Robinson Cano while chasing a double off the bat of Kendrick.
After his homer in the fifth, Parra walked and stole a base in the seventh. He later scored to make it 7-4 in what proved to be the winning run after the Mets scored two in the ninth off Doolittle.
“I try to do everything,” Parra said of his steal.
For now, that is just what the Nationals need.
Washington is six games back of first-place Philadelphia with the red-hot Chicago Cubs coming to town for a weekend series. Ace Max Scherzer (2-4, 3.64), a teammate with Parra in Arizona in 2009, will start Friday night against former Phillies lefty Cole Hamels (3-0, 3.08).
“I am happy we got him,” Martinez said of Parra. “He is a big part of our success the last few days.”
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