Henley helps ‘send’ Nats to walk-off win
By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — Third base coach is one of those mostly thankless jobs that tends to draws notice only in the form of blame when something goes wrong.
“That’s part of it,” the Nationals’ Bob Henley said. “I don’t worry about that.”
Henley’s willingness to take a risk helped the Nationals pull out a dramatic 5-4 over the Brewers on Sunday at Nationals Park, as he waved home Anthony Rendon for the walk-off run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Washington had Rendon — who offers decent if unspectacular speed — at first base with two outs when Jayson Werth ripped Rob Wooten’s pitch for a line drive down the left field line. Stationed past third base on contact, Henley began moving toward home plate, turning around and backpedaling so he could watch left fielder Khris Davis’ pursuit into the left field corner. Henley got perhaps a third of the way between the base and the plate, and by that time, the decision was completely in his hands.
“He’s the one watching the play,” Rendon said. “Once I turn and go to third base, the play’s behind me, so I have to trust him.”
All kinds of factors must be considered, including the game situation, the speed of the runner and the arm of the fielder.
When Davis reached the ball on the warning track, Rendon was about halfway to third. At that point, Henley said, he had made up his mind.
“With two outs, you know [Rendon’s] going to be running on contact, and as soon as it was hit, I was thinking about sending him,” Henley said. “As soon as it went to the wall, I knew I was. Great hitting, great baserunning — it really has nothing to do with me at all. I send everybody.”
“Old No Stop Sign Henley,” as Werth referred to him, began waving his arm — the universal third base coach signal for “Go” — when Davis double-clutched and Rendon got about 5-to-7 steps from the bag.
“We knew we were going to have a play at the plate, and either we were or we weren’t [going to score], but we were going to send him,” Henley said.
What could have and perhaps should have been a close play turned out to be no play at all. With Davis slow to get off a throw and then airmailing his cutoff man, the Brewers never even got the ball to the plate.
“We’ve got to try to win the game there,” manager Matt Williams said. “If ‘Hen’ stops him there, then we’re banking on another base hit. We’ve got to take a chance there.”
This time, the chance paid off, not that Henley wanted any credit for it.
“We’re trying to win ball games, and the boys did an unbelievable job to win,” he said. “I just try to stay out of their way.”
Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.