Baker earns 1,700th victory in vintage style

Renowned players' manager reaches milestone by showing faith in Ross, Espinosa

Baker earns 1,700th victory in vintage style

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Thursday night was the 1,700th victory in Dusty Baker's managerial career. When he thought about the round number, he considered that it meant he had been around for a long time. Although, he added, there were the past two years when he could not find a job.

"So, in my mind, I'm really around 1,850," Baker said with a laugh.

Baker's first victory as a manager also came against the Cardinals when the Giants won at Busch Stadium by the score of 2-1 on April 6, 1993. He ranks 17th on the all-time managerial wins list.

Papelbon slams the door

The Nationals won this game thanks to a strong performance from right-hander Joe Ross, whom Baker allowed to work out of a jam with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh inning -- in part because he wanted Ross to have a chance to pick up a win after he had pitched so well.

Ross escapes trouble in the 7th

So, while Baker may still have his detractors in today's modern game, his trust in his players has paid off at times this season. That included shortstop Danny Espinosa hammering the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the seventh. Baker has not wavered in his confidence in Espinosa despite some of his struggles to begin the year.

"He's just behind all of his guys," Espinosa said. "So to have him behind me, supporting me, and to go out there every day knowing that he wants me out there is a great feeling."

Espinosa's solo blast in the 7th

Baker never thought of himself as a manager during his playing days, and he had not considered it until former All-Star Al Rosen encouraged him. And now, Baker is in his 21st year as a skipper and leading the Nationals to a 29-19 record in his first season in Washington.

107-year-old McLaurin dances with Baker, Nationals

"I didn't even know [Rosen]," Baker said. "And he said he saw something when he was on the other side of the field, when he was with the Astros and the Yankees, that he thought I'd be a good field manager.

"God bless his soul, he's really had an impact on my life. And the one thing that I wish he'd have been wrong about, he told me that managers are made to be fired. And I said, 'Not me.'"

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.