The Washington Times - June 16, 2011, 02:12AM

By Tom Schad

The clubhouse was buzzing after Wednesday’s 10-0 blowout of St. Louis, and for good reason. The Nats finally seem to have found some consistent offensive production and have scored more runs in the past two games (18) than they did in previous seven combined (16).

Some of the credit can certainly go to Ryan Zimmerman, whose return gave the lineup a jolt of confidence at the beginning of the series. He only has two hits in 10 at bats since re-joining the team, but players and coaches alike can tell that he has made an impact with his presence alone.


“I think it’s just encouraging for everybody,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “Certainly when you get a guy like Ryan Zimmerman back in the lineup, it just makes you feel like a better ball club.”

“We have good hitters but to have his presence back is huge,” Danny Espinosa agreed. “He’s been here for his whole career and the presence that he gives us in the clubhouse, on the field and also against the other team… maybe we’re just not missing the pitches that we are getting to hit, but there is obviously a great presence with him around.”

– All the talk on Wednesday centered on Livan Hernandez’ performance on the mound. His line was everything that Nats fans could’ve hoped for, especially against Pujols and company. Riggleman said that Livo’s quick work in the game’s first two innings “set the tone” for what was to come. Most people think that he’s beginning to wind down at age 36, but catcher Ivan Rodriguez thinks that he still has something left in the tank after his 50th career complete game.

“He’s got a lot of years left in his career,” Rodriguez explained. “The way that he performs day in and day out, the way he works out, prepares every five days to pitch in a ball game - it’s amazing. Not too many people know the workouts that he has. He’s going to give us some innings every single start. He’s been pitching and not getting run support but today we supported him and that’s the Livan we know.”

When Rodriguez and Hernandez were each asked which pitches worked well against the Cardinals lineup, they responded the same way: all of them.

“I think the sinker was working real good, and the slider was working very good and I can’t ask for anything else,” Livo said. “Everything was working perfectly – the change up was very good today too.”

– Michael Morse is on one of the best streaks of his career. He’s played so well for so long now that Riggleman may not even call it a streak at this point.

“Hot streaks are usually 10 days or something, [but] he’s just been real good ever since he’s been back in there,” Riggleman said. “This is much more than a hot streak because he’s coming from that first 3-4 weeks of the season where he was probably down in the .170 range. So he’s coming a long way.”

“He’s on fire, ” Espinosa added. “Whatever pitch it is, you see him hit every pitch. He’s really locked in and I hope he stays like this.”

But lost among Morse’s success and the Nats’ surge is Roger Bernadina, who has quietly notched five hits in his last eight chances, including a double, run and a pair of RBIs. But more importantly, he’s been the glue holding many of Washington’s scoring opportunities together. His ability to reach base from any slot in the order is wildly important to guys like Morse, Zimmerman and Werth who want to knock him home.

Even if the heart of the Nats’ lineup catches a hot streak, they will still quickly fizzle without continued help from guys like Bernadina.