Souza's diving catch saves Zimmermann's no-hitter
Nationals minor leaguer takes step to improve outfield play
This time, Steven Souza Jr. steered clear of the outfield fence, and caught the ball.
With Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann no-hitting Miami on Sunday, Souza entered the game in the top of the ninth inning as a defensive replacement.
Zimmermann retired Adeiny Hechavarria and Jarrod Saltalamacchia before Marlins left-handed hitting outfielder Christian Yelich launched a fly ball into the left-centre field gap. Seconds later, he made a spectacular behind-the-shoulder catch for the final out to save the first no-hitter in Nationals history.
“To be a part of it, it’s just an honour to me. Every ball, I want hit at me. I just want to make the play for him,” said Souza of Zimmermann.
The pitcher figured the ball would drop for extra bases.
“I thought that was a double for sure, and he [Souza] comes out of nowhere and makes the play,” Zimmermann said.
Holy crap, just saw Stephen Souza's catch to preserve Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter. Incredible.—@TheFantasyFix
Souza, who hit .350 with a .432 on-base percentage and 18 home runs in 96 games for triple-A Syracuse this season, was the Nationals’ minor league player of the year.
Less than a week ago, he expressed a desire to improve his skills in the outfield.
Great pitching, terrific catch, fun storyline, good call, perfect sport. Bring on October. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/baseball?src=hash">#baseball</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/postseason?src=hash">#postseason</a> <a href="http://t.co/hYi4HC59i4">http://t.co/hYi4HC59i4</a>—@BradFrenette
In early August, Souza was forced to leave a 7-6 loss to the hometown Atlanta Braves with an inflamed left shoulder after he crashed into the right-field wall at full speed as a Freddie Freeman hit off Stephen Strasburg cleared the fence for a two-run home run.
“Once he gets more and more playing time, he will have a lot better awareness [about which] balls are not going to be caught,” Strasburg said at the time.
Sunday’s play was a step in the right direction.