WASHINGTON -- Steve Lombardozzi's emergence into a capable leadoff hitter has been a pleasant surprise, but his transition into a reliable outfielder might have the largest role in the significant playing time he has been seeing as a rookie.
With two outs and the tying runner on second base in the sixth inning of Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Rays, Lombardozzi preserved the lead with a diving catch of a shallow fly ball to left off the bat of Jose Molina. The play was highlight reel-worthy in its own right, but with the Nats having lost four straight, a win was critical.
Prior to this season, Lombardozzi had never played in the outfield. He came up through the Minors as an infielder and began the season in a utility role before shifting to left field.
"At first I took a step back, and I realized it was going to be short, so I was hauling my [tail] in, and I was able to come up with the catch," Lombardozzi said. "I kind of turned that play into a web gem myself by making it harder than it should have been."
Once his bat proved steady enough for the top of the lineup, Lombardozzi became the primary leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers. The 23-year-old switch-hitter is batting .268/.329/.346 with 11 RBIs, though in 25 at-bats against lefties, he is hitting just .120/.214/.160.