New-look outfield?

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Hello from Nationals Park, where the mood in the home clubhouse is as upbeat as I’ve seen it in a while. Back-to-back wins at Yankee Stadium tend to be a bit of a morale boost.

The Nats did just about everything right in those two wins, but particularly they played standout defense. It’s been such a problem all season, so to see them make about four or five legitimately nice plays was refreshing to say the least.

It does, however, raise an interesting question: Should Manny Acta put together his starting lineups with more emphasis on defense than offense? He did it yesterday to an extent, with Willie Harris in left, Corey Patterson in center and Austin Kearns in right. That alignment paid off.

There is one significant catch, though. Now that the Nats are back home and playing by National League rules, they no longer have a DH. Which means Adam Dunn has to play the field.

“You need to score runs to win ballgames. And we haven’t been doing that as of late,” Acta said. “Our offense is not the same offense that we had a month and a half ago. We’re not going to sit Adam Dunn to have Willie Harris playing left field. That’s not part of the plan here: to have real tough matchups just so we can have someone out there who can catch the ball.”

So Dunn is a fixture in left. But what about the other two positions? Generally, Acta has gone with Elijah Dukes in center field and then either Kearns or Josh Willingham in right. But tonight’s lineup features Dukes in right and Harris in center. That’s a much better defensive alignment, in both positions.

Will that become the norm once Willingham returns from bereavement leave tomorrow? Not necessarily. Acta said he’ll choose his center and right fielders on a day-to-day basis, picking the combination that best matches up with the opposing pitcher.

With that, here is tonight’s lineup against the Blue Jays…

NATIONALS

SS Cristian Guzman

1B Nick Johnson

3B Ryan Zimmerman

LF Adam Dunn

RF Elijah Dukes

C Josh Bard

CF Willie Harris

2B Anderson Hernandez

P Jordan Zimmermann

BLUE JAYS

SS Marci Scutaro

2B Aaron Hill

CF Vernon Wells

3B Scott Rolen

LF Adam Lind

RF Alex Rios

1B Lyle Overbay

C Rod Barajas

P Brian Tallet

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Mark Zuckerman

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