WASHINGTON -- Nobody knew if Stephen Drew was strong enough to pinch hit. Over the last three days, he had a bad case of the flu and was unavailable to do anything on the baseball field until Saturday night, and it was big.
His pinch-hit, walk-off triple in the ninth inning gave the Nationals a 3-2 win over the Padres at Nationals Park.
With the score tied at 2, Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon was ready to take his first at-bat of his career, but everybody knew that would have to come another day. He then jokingly told Drew, "Only the strong survive and weak falls by the waste side." Drew even had to remind hitting coach Rick Schu that he was strong enough to pinch hit.
Drew batted for Papelbon. On a 1-2 pitch from Padres right-hander Kevin Quackenbush, Drew hit the ball off the wall in right-center field, scoring Anthony Rendon from first base.
"All we know was that he was super sick," manager Dusty Baker said. "He had another IV today, he had one yesterday, he had another one the day before. It took all he had to get that [triple] and run to third. It was right on time for us."
Drew hasn't fully recovered from the flu. He had to sit down when he talked to the media after the game. Saturday marked the first day Drew did any baseball activities. He tried to hit in the cage the day before, but had to stop because he felt lightheaded. Drew didn't want to describe what he was going through the last few days.
"It's been ugly," he said.
Drew lost seven to eight pounds during his illness.
"I'm all right. I'm getting better," Drew said. "It has been a long process, frustrating. Hopefully, I'm on the mend of this thing and go from there."
While he didn't describe how he was feeling, teammate Ben Revere gave a hint to what it was like for Drew.
"He was pale white. Like my shirt," Revere said. "I could tell he wasn't feeling good. I mean, everbody's been there. A little bug and you can't eat nothing for days and just lose a bunch of weight. But what he did today was definitely big for us. We needed that win to get back on our feet so hopefully we come back tomorrow and win the series."
Drew's impact on the Nationals has been enormous. He is arguably their best pinch-hitter. He is 6-for-20 [.300] with three home runs and six RBIs this season as a pinch-hitter. Before the season started, Baker didn't know what he was going to get from Drew off the bench.
"In the beginning of Spring Training, he didn't look quite as good as he is now," Baker said. "He has worked hard and stayed ready. We missed him the last three days. Not only was my bench short, but we had to leave him on the scorecard as a decoy. He has had a tremendous impact on the team. [Drew] has played third, short, second. He has done everything we asked him to do and more."
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.