In a stunning come-from-behind win against the Washington Nationals on Thursday night, rookie reliever Daniel Camarena was recorded the first hit of his Major League Baseball career. Why is this significant? The hit was a grand slam off starting pitcher and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer.
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The Nationals jumped to an early lead in the game thanks to starter Yu Darvish’s inability to record outs. Darvish was replaced by Camarena at the start of the fourth inning after giving up six runs and eight hits, a season-high for the ace. Being in a large hole like this can be intimidating for any relief pitcher especially if it is the first appearance all season, but that did not deter this rookie.
Although Camarena gave up two runs in his outing, he supported his team at the plate and provided the spark they needed for a huge inning. With teammates Trent Grisham, Eric Hosmer, and Wil Myers on base ahead of him, Camarena was in a prime position to deliver. Scherzer’s pitch looked like it was going to be a ball in the dirt but the rookie was able to go down and launch it into the outfield bleachers for a grand slam.
Keep in mind that this was only his second plate appearance of the season, yet he swung the bat as if he had done this before. This was only the second instance in Major League Baseball history where a pitcher’s first hit was a grand slam. Former reliever Bill Duggleby was able to accomplish the feat on April 21, 1898 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
This knock also made Camarena the first relief pitcher from any team to hit a grand slam since Don Robinson on September 12, 1985 in a game against the Chicago Cubs. For the Padres organization, he would go down as the second reliever to hit a grand slam, joining Mike Corkins who successfully did it on September 4, 1970.
With that hit, the Padres were able to dig themselves out of the eight-run deficit and overcome the Nationals by a final score of 9 to 8. Splitting the series with Washington most likely was not what the club had in mind as the midway point of the season is approaching rather quickly. A chance for redemption is on the horizon as the Friars host the Colorado Rockies for a three-game series from July 9 through 11.
Last month, the Rockies were able to successfully defeat San Diego and sweep them in three games at Coors Field. Hopefully, San Diego’s bats stay hot and Camarena can continue to carve out his path in the MLB history books.
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