Twin slams key Nats romp

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There are few things Josh Willingham can do in a baseball game, from this point on, that would surpass the offensive performance he put on Monday night. With grand slams in back-to-back innings — one in the fifth, one in the sixth — Willingham put his name on one of the game’s most exclusive lists and powered the Nationals to a 14-6 win.

The 30-year-old outfielder is only the sixth player to hit grand slams in back-to-back innings (though Fernando Tatis hit two in the same inning in 1999), and the 13th to hit two in the same game.

“Oftentimes, you don’t see the bases loaded twice for the same guy in the same game, much less a guy hitting two grand slams,” outfielder Adam Dunn said. “That’s pretty amazing.”

One of the most patient and thorough hitters in the game, Willingham doubled off Jeff Suppan on a slider in the second inning, then flew out off a sinker in the fourth. He guessed correctly that Suppan would return to the sinker in the fifth, and crushed one on the first pitch for his first grand slam. Then, he blasted a Mark DiFelice pitch to left center in the sixth inning, completing the historic feat.

“It’s something that, when I was coming up to the plate the second time (with the bases loaded), I knew I had a chance to do it,” Willingham said, the ball from the second slam already tagged and placed in a glass case in his locker behind him. “When I look back on it, it’ll be very special, and I’ll never forget it. It’ll be a great memory.”

He was due up fourth in the eight inning, but Ryan Zimmerman ruined his chance at a third slam by hitting a home run to lead off the inning. Willingham was well aware of his chances, and when Zimmerman got back to the dugout, Willingham jokingly asked, “Why’d you do that?”

He had 20 text messages on his phone after the game, and dozens more several minutes later. Asked if he would retire the bat, Willingham said he wouldn’t, and then asked what he would do if the Hall of Fame wanted it, he said, “Well, when I break it, I’ll give it to them.”

About the only thing that didn’t go right for the Nats in this one was their pitching—Craig Stammen gave up five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, struggling to contain an aggressive Brewers lineup. But Adam Dunn and Cristian Guzman combined to throw out former teammate (Dunn’s in Cincinnati, Guzman’s in Washington) Felipe Lopez at home plate.

Dunn also made a nice sliding catch and drew an RBI walk in the fifth inning that kept the bases loaded for Willingham’s first grand slam. The walk, it should be noted, came after Dunn crushed a foul ball into the fourth deck at Miller Park, about five feet right of being one of the longest homers in stadium history.

“We did so many great things,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “Willingham’s the obvious one, but Dunn did a lot of great things, too.”

That’s the Nats’ fifth win in eight games and third in a row. They’ll try for the elusive four-game win streak tomorrow at 8:05 Eastern.

 

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