DETROIT — Jose Tabata was benched today not so much for his two poor plays in the outfield last night, but rather for failing to run hard down the line after hitting a grounder in the ninth inning. “He had a rough night all over the board,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It happens sometimes to young players. Sometimes, they need a recalibration of focus. He understands the importance he carries at the top of the lineup, the intensity he’s got to play with.”
Tabata got turned around on Adam LaRoche’s triple off the left field wall in the sixth inning. “The ball sliced,” Tabata said. “I didn’t have much chance.” In the seventh, he dropped a fly ball hit by Danny Espinosa, who was credited with a double by the generous official scorer. “He got turned around on one ball and clanked another. He’s human,” Hurdle said. But there was no excusing what happened in the ninth.
With runners at first and second and one out, Tabata tapped the ball a couple of feet in front of the plate. He got slow start, thinking perhaps the ball was foul. But even after it was clear the Nationals were in the process of turning an inning-ending double play, Tabata jogged toward first base with zero urgency. It sparked Hurdle’s ire.
“We’ve seen it happen a couple of times,” Hurdle said. “They understand here that when that happens, there’s something else that’s going to happen — you’re going to sit with me and watch. He gets it. We had a talk today and he said, ‘I just lost the moment.’ I understand losing the moment. But then get down the line. That didn’t happen. It’s not part of our identity. It’s not part of what we’re creating here. We get down the line as well as anybody in baseball. That’s the way we’ve got to play. He gets it. When Tabata plays with the energy and focus we’ve seen for the most part these three or four weeks, everybody feeds off it. We’ve made a commitment to him, he’s made a commitment to us. We talked about that today. I think he’s going to be ready to help. He understands there was a lesson to be learned.”