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An ugly, but sweet win

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The Nats tried their best not to win today. Somehow, they still did.

This 3-2 victory over the Reds was an eyesore. Through the game’s first seven innings, the Nationals were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, 2-for-21 with anyone on base. They did manage four hits in the eighth inning, but amazingly none of them actually resulted in a run scoring.

No, all three of Washington’s runs today came on groundball force outs (with some help from Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, whose throwing error allowed the go-ahead run to score), which is pretty remarkable when you think about it.

“Hey, we’ll take runs any way we can get them right now,” Willie Harris said.

Yes, they will. The Nationals, plain and simple, are not producing at the plate right now. They’ve been held to two runs or less in six of their last eight games. They’re 8 for their last 51 with runners in scoring position.

“We can’t slug away every single day,” Manny Acta said. “We’re going to have to win some 3-2, 2-1 ballgames and for that, we’re going to need the big hits. We’re going to need one of those guys to step up.”

So far, no one has. Ryan Zimmerman is struggling. Adam Dunn is struggling. Wil Nieves is struggling. And Austin Kearns is REALLY struggling. The veteran outfielder is hitting .154 with zero RBI over his last 25 games. During that span, he has more than twice as many strikeouts (24) as base hits (10).

Kearns, who is making $8 million this season and has a $10 million club option for 2010, will probably keep getting opportunities over the next week because the Nationals are playing interleague games on the road and will be using Dunn as designated hitter. But his time could be running out.

“We need him to step up,” Acta said. “We’re going to see what he is going to do now in this interleague series because it is going to give us an opportunity to have an extra hitter there. Then after that, we’re going to have to make a decision.”

Those decisions, though, will have to wait for another day. On this day, the Nationals are winners. You’ve only experienced this feeling 16 times in 58 games this season. So enjoy it while it lasts.

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Mark Zuckerman

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