WASHINGTON -- The Reds were minutes away from their game July 26, when a late trade forced Chris Heisey to warm up for left field and Jonny Gomes to stop his route to the dugout, return to the clubhouse and pack his bags -- no goodbyes for his teammates, just the memories of a National League Central Division title from a year ago.
Gomes gave his former club something else to remember Thursday at Nationals Park, where he saved potential runs with his defense and drove in the winning ones with his bat in Washington's 3-1 victory.
"Against the Reds or not against the Reds, it would bring a smile to my face," Gomes said.
The left fielder started the series 0-for-7 -- then stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth and Washington in desperate need of some breathing room.
Gomes provided it, sending the same Bronson Arroyo pitch he rolled over for a groundout in the fifth into left field for a two-run single.
"Jonny took advantage of a good 1-0 changeup on the outer half and drove in a couple runs," Arroyo said. "It was too much for us to overcome."
The Reds responded with a run in the seventh -- via an error, wild pitch, passed ball and groundout -- but they mostly left men on base. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann stranded six runners on base through his 5 2/3 innings before Ryan Mattheus took over in the sixth and left two more on base, then left with right shoulder tightness.
But Zimmermann had Gomes to thank for one of his stranded runners.
"A life saver," Zimmermann said.
With Brandon Phillips on first and two out, Gomes closed quickly on Joey Votto's fly ball deep in the left-field corner, crashing into the wall and dropping to the ground.
"I was a little worried he might have hurt the wall," said manager Davey Johnson.
Not known for his glove -- Johnson pulled Gomes in the ninth and put in Brian Bixler as a defensive replacement -- Gomes never hesitated once Votto smacked Zimmermann's fastball the opposite way.
"When you have guys like Votto you have to be light on your feet," Gomes said. "I DH'd my first four years in the big leagues in Tampa, so coming over to the National League, there was a 'label' about my defense. It's tough when you put your glove down for four years to pick it back up -- time away from something in any trade is like that. When I'm able to do stuff like that it turns those non-believers into believers."
Jesus Flores did the same thing earlier in the game, smacking his first home run since May 8, 2009, when he was the backstop of the future in Washington. His batterymate, who he spent much of last season rehabbing with in Viera, Fla., met him at the plate.
"About time," Zimmermann told him.
Zimmermann will make two more starts before his first full season since Tommy John surgery ends prematurely, with the Nationals focused on getting him rest. But Flores will continue to play -- likely in his native Venezuela in the winter, as well -- as he attempts to once again become the player that once showed so much promise behind and at the plate.
"I feel healthy and that's enough for me to be even better than I was before," Flores said. "I know this year is more of a comeback year to get used to everything again, but it's nothing I don't know what to expect. It's just get back and get ready for next year."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.