The Washington Times - September 17, 2011, 11:51AM

When Laynce Nix came was pulled from the Nationals’ 5-2 loss to the Braves in the third inning on Sept. 1, he never anticipated that he wouldn’t start another game for 15 full days. 

“I don’t think it’s that severe,” Nix said at the time. “It’s just sort of tender. I don’t anticipate it being too long.”

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Things did not progress the way he would have liked, though, and Nix was limited to pinch hitting appearances (and being promptly pinch run for when he did get on base) through the next two weeks. He admitted this week in New York that it had been difficult for him to keep his frustration level low. 

But in playing seven innings and getting a key hit in what would end up being the Nationals’ best opportunity to rally against Javier Vazquez in a 3-0 loss Friday night, Nix finally was able to feel like a bonafide contributor again — something he was on a daily basis in a first half where he hit .274 with 12 home runs and a .502 slugging percentage.

“I felt really good,” Nix said. “I’m pretty pleased that I was able to move quickly and do everything I needed to do. I feel it just a little bit, but overall it’s come a long way and I’m just glad I was able to play most of that game.

“Missing two weeks is a long time. I tried not to think about it and just get ready and on time. I was pretty pleased to get solid contact and my timing be where I would like it to be.”

Considering the fact that the Nationals signed Nix as a minor league free agent just before spring training, that he’s hit .257 with a career-high 16 home runs and, for a time, served as their cleanup hitter and every day third baseman, is pretty impressive. Nix will again be a free agent this offseason and while nagging injuries in his right Achilles and groin have hampered him in the second half, he’s probably done more than anyone expected and enough to warrant some serious consideration from teams this offseason (including possibly the Nationals).

Either way, the fact that he might get a few more starts before the season ends should go a long way for him toward that end.

“It really is important to me (to finish strong),” Nix said. “I’ve felt good most of the year. I had a couple nagging things but I wouldn’t want something to hinder me and that be the last taste in my mouth for the season. Every season’s a battle. I felt pretty good for the most part and I think I’ll be OK finishing up.

“I really want to finish the season healthy and I think I will.”