Clint Robinson doesn’t mind facing aces

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — In the bottom of the second inning of Friday’s 5-4 win over the Marlins, the Nationals’ Clint Robinson walloped a Jose Fernandez fastball into the second deck of the right-field seats at Nats Park.

The solo shot continued an amazing trend for Robinson, who continually has risen to the challenge when facing the toughest competition this season. Entering 2015, the 30-year-old had tallied a total of 14 Major League plate appearances, three hits and no home runs, but after making the Nats’ roster as a longshot, check out his success against some of the top starting pitchers in the league:

  • Madison Bumgarner* (SF) …. 2-for-3, 2B
  • Gerrit Cole (PIT) ……………. 1-for-3, 2B
  • Jacob deGrom (NYM) ……… 1-for-5, RBI
  • Zack Greinke (LAD) ………… 3-for-6
  • Matt Harvey (NYM) ………… 3-for-8, 2B, BB, 3 RBI
  • Jose Fernandez (MIA) …….. 2-for-3, HR, RBI
  • Clayton Kershaw* (LAD) …… 1-for-3
  • Francisco Liriano* (PIT) ……. 1-for-2, 2B, BB
  • Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) …….1-for-3

*Left-handed pitcher (Robinson bats lefty)

Totals: 15-for-36 (.417) with 2 BB, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Opponents have hit .241 against Cole, which ranked 48th in the Majors among starters with at least 45 innings, entering Friday. The other eight pitchers all had opponents averages of .227 or below, ranking in the top 21.

Obviously, Robinson’s numbers here are a small sample size, though they include most of his encounters with upper-level starters. But while it doesn’t mean that Robinson has some special talent for hitting aces, it’s still impressive what he has accomplished against them, given his limited big league experience.

“I do the same thing I do no matter who’s on the mound,” he said. “Most of the time those top-of-the rotation guys, they’re strike throwers, so that’s always good when you get them in the strike zone and do something with it. Just try to approach every at-bat the same, go up there and not do too much and let whatever happens once you hit the ball happen. There’s nothing really special about it.”

Nats manager Matt Williams pointed to Friday’s home run, which came on a 94-mph fastball, as an example of how Robinson has succeeded in those spots.

“I just think it’s a short swing,” Williams said. “So somebody like Jose, if he throws you a fastball, he’s going to provide all the power you need, and a short, level, compact swing will do the trick. He didn’t swing hard at that ball, and it went in the upper deck.”

And it’s not like Robinson has only hit against top-of-the-rotation starters. He’s been a surprisingly solid contributor for the Nats all season, especially since Ryan Zimmerman’s first disabled-list stint in June opened up some regular playing time.

While Robinson’s numbers as a pinch-hitter are modest, he is batting .299/.386/.457 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 64 starts.

Not bad for a 30-year-old rookie.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

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