In Game 1 of the World Series, Oakland A’s fans got to see an old favorite come through when now-Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle retired all four batters he faced to save the one-run victory. In Game 2, another former A’s fave had a huge moment to help lead the Nats to a win and a 2-0 Series lead.
With the score tied 2-2 after six innings, catcher Kurt Suzuki led off the 7th for Washington, facing Astros superstar starter Justin Verlander. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Suzuki went deeeep for a solo homer to take the lead.
The Nats weren’t done there, as they plated five more runs before the inning was over, and eventually went on to rout Houston by a 12-3 margin. With the floodgates opening and the final score signifying a blowout, Suzuki’s blast might not be remembered for how clutch and important it was, but at the time it broke a late-inning tie against one of the best pitchers in the sport. Technically he drove in the go-ahead run.
Suzuki is now the first player born in Hawaii to homer in the World Series. He followed his big fly with a Macarena celebration in the dugout. He also singled in his first at-bat, so he went 2-for-3 against Verlander and 2-for-5 overall, after starting the postseason on a 1-for-23 skid entering the game.
The dinger wasn’t Suzuki’s only big moment, though, as he did great work behind the plate too. He blocked several balls in the dirt, and he threw out Jose Altuve trying to steal third base in the 1st inning. How crucial was that caught stealing? The next two batters hit a single and a homer, so it’s pretty easy to argue that he outright saved a run early when the game was still completely up for grabs.
And in case you didn’t already love Suzuki with all your heart, he also brought his kids to the postgame press conference.
Of course, this particular moment might sting a little bit extra for A’s fans. In 2012 the A’s traded Suzuki away (to the Nats!) after the emergence of Derek Norris, and so they didn’t have him when they faced (and lost to) Verlander and the Tigers in the ALDS. The next year, 2013, Oakland reacquired Suzuki (from the Nats!) and brought him to the playoffs, once again to face Verlander and the Tigers, but he didn’t make a single appearance in the five-game ALDS loss — not even one at-bat or inning of defense.
Considering how close those series were, and how hopeless the A’s were against Verlander the four times they faced him those years (one run in 31 innings, with 43 strikeouts), it’s easy to wonder if anything would have been different with Suzuki facing him. After all, entering this game he was 14-for-42 in his career against Verlander, with a walk and only four strikeouts, so his success against the star right-hander isn’t anything new. And now, finally given the chance to face Verlander in the postseason, Suzuki did exactly what Oakland never could against him.
But what’s done is done, and there’s no point in going back and dwelling on it. What matters now is that Suzuki got to have an immortal moment on the biggest stage, even if he had to wait until a few weeks after his 36th birthday to get there. Congrats to Zooks, and a quick reminder that I was fully in favor of the A’s trying to sign him last winter (and instead we got two terrible months of Nick Hundley followed by two terrible months of Chris Herrmann). Suzuki posted a 105 wRC+ this year, with 17 homers and his customary low strikeout rate, all of which would have looked awfully good in Oakland’s lineup.
The Nats host the Astros for Game 3 tonight, beginning at 5:07 p.m., with a pitching matchup of Anibal Sanchez against Zack Greinke. Of course, Suzuki is behind the plate again for Washington.
In conclusion, here’s a fun Suzuki memory, courtesy of Susan Slusser.