HOUSTON (AP) — Kurt Suzuki is beat up physically, with a sore back and other ailments after grinding behind the plate from spring training through late October.
All of that would be worthwhile for the 36-year-old Washington Nationals catcher to finally get a World Series ring.
Suzuki believes pitching and defense ultimately wins championships, and he certainly has done his part in those areas. In Game 2, he had his first RBI this postseason, a tiebreaking solo homer off Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander to spark a bat-around seventh inning.
The Nationals went on to a 12-3 win Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead before even playing their first World Series game at Nationals Park. Game 3 is there Friday night.
Suzuki’s body has been battered by run-saving blocks on pitches in the dirt, the kind that got the appreciation of Nationals starter Max Scherzer after they won Game 1 of the World Series.
“I was having to make pitches out of the stretch from the first inning on. I just stayed with (Suzuki),” Scherzer said after throwing five innings. “He called some big-time pitches for me and blocked some big-time pitches too, especially with runners on third base.”
With so much mental effort put into game-planning with his own pitchers, the offensive side of the game can suffer. Suzuki went into Game 2 of the World Series hitting only .043 (1 for 23) this postseason.
Of course, he also scored the tiebreaking run in Washington’s 5-4 win in Game 1. He drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and later ran home on Adam Eaton’s single that made it 3-2 and put the Nationals ahead to stay.
The catcher missed Game 1 of the NL Championship Series after a scary moment in Game 5 of the NL Division Series, when Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler hit him on the left wrist with a 94 mph fastball and the ball shot up and knocked off his helmet as the ballpark went silent.
After falling to the ground and grabbing his face, Suzuki walked off his under his own power. He was back behind the plate three days later.
Just part of the grind.