MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Speier dedicates Nats' victory to Baker

Bench coach fills in for skipper, who misses game due to death in family

Speier dedicates Nats' victory to Baker

WASHINGTON -- Nationals skipper Dusty Baker did not manage Wednesday's game against the Mets due to a death in his family.

Bench coach Chris Speier took over the managerial duties and guided the Nationals to a 1-0 victory at Nationals Park, thanks to a monster home run by Wilson Ramos. Speier acknowledged he was emotional during the game and dedicated the victory to Baker.

"It was huge," Speier said. "As we got into that ninth inning with the one-run lead, yeah, I got emotional. I was saying some powerful prayers. This one is for Dusty. Let everybody perform the way they can perform. I know [Baker] is happy [for the victory]. It may add joy to the tough times he [is going through]."

Speier said Baker may not be in Atlanta on Friday when Washington plays the Braves. Speier had known for a couple of days that he would be filling in for Baker.

The last time Speier filled in for Baker was in September 2012, when Baker was managing the Reds. Baker was out for 11 games because of a mini stroke and irregular heartbeat.

"This is not an ideal situation," Speier said before Wednesday's game. "The last time I was asked to manage was another similar, somber situation. It was regarding Dusty's health. So I just try to do the things that he would want me to do. This situation is no different than that.

"[Baker] has given me the lineups for today and possibly Friday if he is not able to get back in time. I'm doing this with a heavy heart. You have a friend that is going through some difficult times and your heart goes out to him. What I do and the team does today is done for him."

Baker has managed Washington to an 87-59 record this season, his first with the team. The Nationals lead the National League East by 10 games over the Mets, and their magic number to clinch the division title is seven.

Speier calls Baker an older brother and noticed a positive change in Baker this year. Earlier in Baker's managerial career, the game of baseball wore on him. This year, Baker seems a lot happier and a lot more at peace.

"He doesn't take defeat, loss or down time as hard as he used to," Speier said. "It's really refreshing. It makes us turn the page a lot quicker."

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.