Manager, teammates glad to see Bernadina break out
Roger Bernadina had never been so excited to look so ridiculous.
Donning the silver foam Elvis wig reserved for the game's most valuable player, the Nationals' rookie couldn't help but beam with pride.
Bernadina, 25, had the best game of his young career Wednesday, belting his first major-league home run in the fourth inning before crushing a two-run, game-winning blast off Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth to give Washington a 6-4 win at Citi Field.
He also impressed in the field, robbing Jeff Francoeur of an extra-base hit on a diving catch in deep right to end the fifth inning with the bases loaded and the score tied at 4.
"If that ball's two inches more, it's 7-4 and we win the ballgame," Francoeur said. "That's what was frustrating. If that ball falls, it's over."
It was the first time since 2005 the Mets lost two home series in the same season to Washington (19-15), which entered the game tied with the Mets in the National League East, and now trails only the Phillies.
And the newest National had a lot to do with it.
Bernadina, a native of Curacao who was called up from Triple-A Syracuse last month after shuttling between the minors and big leagues the past eight years, crushed his first home run - a line drive over the rightfield wall - on a 90-mph fastball Mike Pelfrey left up in the strike zone.
As he recounted the experience, he gestured to the memento sitting on the top shelf of his locker. "That's something I'll always carry with me," he said of his home run ball.
He lofted his second homer into the bullpen behind the 415-foot sign in right-center after Rodriguez threw a fastball down the middle with Cristian Guzman on first base and two outs.
"It's good to see him coming into his own and showing off his raw talent," said Nationals starter Craig Stammen, who played with Bernadina in the minor leagues. "He saved me a bunch of runs. He's as close as there is to a five-tool player."
Washington manager Jim Riggelman said he had a feeling his young rightfielder would have a breakout game. He just didn't anticipate this kind of showing.
"Before the ballgame I told a couple of coaches, I'm looking for Bernadina to hit a double and a triple today," he said. "He's just too good to be sticking one out there now and again. It's just one game, but it could be the start of something good. And it couldn't have happened to a more wonderful kid."