Even though Kirk Nieuwenhuis is having a disappointing season overall when you examine his overall numbers, he delivered the biggest hit of the year in last night’s dramatic victory over the Washington Nationals.
In a tie game in the 8th inning facing Nationals’ All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, Nieuwenhuis crushed a solo home run to right field to give New York an 8-7 lead.
“Papelbon has got a great splitty. I didn’t really want to stick around for that,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Thankfully I got my pitch early. I was just kind of looking for something in — middle or middle in. His ball can run sometimes quite a bit off the plate. I got my pitch and thankfully put a good swing on it.” (Adam Rubin, ESPN NY)
The Mets designated Nieuwenhuis for assignment after his dreadful 3-for-38 start at the plate, but they were luckily able to get him back after he was let go by the Angels.
He’s only had 45 at-bats since then, but he’s provided the team with two outstanding moments with his three-homer game back in July and his heroics last night.
“I’m still kind of processing it right now. It’s just been a lot of fun. This is such a good team to be on. I came up with a lot of these guys. This run is a lot fun.”
“When I first came to this organization as the field coordinator, I fell in love with the way he plays,” said manager Terry Collins.
“Everybody thought this guy was going to be a great player. He’s had a lot of injuries to different parts of his body, his shoulders especially. He had to change his swing. Tonight, to be a part of this, I’m real happy for him.”
Nieuwenhuis is still only batting .200 with a .660 OPS on the season, but as he showed last night, he can be a valuable contributor off of the bench. He has impressive power against right-handed pitching, and he has a knack for frequently coming through in clutch situations.
On Tuesday, September 8, Captain Kirk may have been the one who delivered the fatal blow that finally sunk the Nationals’ season once and for all.