When he came up to the big leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Gerardo Parra hit a home run in his first at-bat. Maybe that can help explain the journeyman’s continued propensity for coming up clutch in big moments.
Parra has only been a Washington National since May 9, shortly after the San Francisco Giants designated him for assignment and he opted for free agency. His first base hit in a Nationals uniform? Just your everyday eighth-inning, two-outs grand slam that proved to be the game-winning play against the Los Angeles Dodgers May 11.
“A great moment for me,” Parra told reporters in Los Angeles. “I tried to help my team to win and that’s what we do. Just hitting a good pitch. Pitch in the zone. Try to put the ball in play.”
That was putting it lightly. He followed it up a few days later with a go-ahead two-run home run, followed by a stolen base and insurance run, to beat the Mets.
Parra, a 32-year-old who was batting .198 at the time he was DFA’d, is now an unlikely Nationals role payer who keeps finding ways to make the right play in pressure situations.
It continued Monday, not at the plate but in the field. In the fourth inning of Washington’s 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins, Parra made a running catch in center field for one out, then gunned the ball to Trea Turner in time to stop Miami’s Jorge Alfaro from advancing to second — an uncommon 8-6 double play. He followed it up with another running catch later in the afternoon, hardly a given for this year’s mistake-prone Nationals defense.
“He plays good defense and he’s got a cannon for an arm,” pitcher Max Scherzer said. “You saw today, he was all over the diamond making plays for us. He made some good catches out there in right-center field, he was able to throw out Alfaro and made a nice, ready catch.”
Parra is listed as an outfielder — he won two Gold Glove Awards there, in 2011 and 2013 — but Monday was in fact Parra’s first time starting in center for the Nationals. In his seven starts before that, Parra had to cover first base with both Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams injured.
Adams has since returned, and save for Zimmerman, the Nationals are back to a healthy state. So a recent signing like Parra, who has only played in 12 games for Washington but batted .314 in that time, might see fewer opportunities to play even if he’s made a case for himself.
Asked if Parra might be part of the Nationals’ outfield rotation going forward, manager Dave Martinez said Parra “knows his role.”
“We’re gonna get him in against right-handed pitching,” Martinez said. “I love him because he’s a left-handed bat off the bench, and yet, he can come in and play all three outfield positions, play first base for us, even pinch-run for us if need be. Since we got him, he’s been great.
“One thing I’ll mention,” he added, “is he’s a leader in the clubhouse, too, which I like, and he helps all the Latin players, which is really really good.”
Scherzer can attest to Parra’s clubhouse presence. They were Diamondbacks teammates in 2009, much earlier in their careers.
“I played with him all the way when he was a pup back when we were in Arizona together. Nothing’s really changed,” Scherzer said of Parra. “He’s a great guy for our clubhouse and what he can do for the ball club.”
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