Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals for The Washington Times.
Just in case anyone needed any more proof that Bryce Harper is a man among boys in the South Atlantic League, he decided to go 4-for-5 with a grand slam and five RBI Wednesday night to raise his numbers to a .396 average, . 472 on-base percentage, .712 slugging percentage and 1.184 OPS.
So what does being .500 at this point mean? They're roughly 20 percent of the way through the season and despite starting the road trip by getting swept by the Philadelphia Phillies, they're suddenly back on pace to win 81 games this season.
The Nationals won their 18th game of the season Wednesday night. They needed 20 members of their 25-man roster to do it, it took them 11 innings, and it required a ninth-inning comeback. But when it was official, it sealed their second straight series victory over a divisional opponent and brought them back to .500 for the sixth time this season.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman talks about the moving parts in his outfield, which could mean less playing time for Michael Morse and more for Roger Bernadina and Laynce Nix, along with a note about Drew Storen.
After crushing a three-run home run into right field Tuesday night, Laynce Nix found himself back in the Nationals lineup for an eighth straight game Wednesday afternoon, the 14th start of the season for the left-hander who signed a minor league deal with the team this offseason and made the club out of spring training as a fourth outfielder.
The Nationals were able to beat Tim Hudson Tuesday night. That alone should give them confidence that they can do the same to Tommy Hanson this evening in an attempt to win a pivotal division series with the Braves. Here's how they've done in the past against him.
Technically, Drew Storen has never been named the Nationals closer. He's never been given the official title, but his last eight appearances have comes exclusively in the ninth inning and he's the clear choice for Nationals manager Jim Riggleman when the game is on the line. Riggleman has said several times that the role of closer is one the Nationals would love for Storen to have, but don't want to put too much pressure on the 23-year-old's shoulder. Regardless, Storen's been given the opportunity to seize the role and he's thriving, with a 17-inning scoreless streak to prove it and a miniscule 0.46 ERA. But he's also learning the adjustments he needs to make mentally to continue that progress.
In a career that has taken Jason Marquis from his home in Staten Island, N.Y. to careers with five different teams in five different states and three different time zones, it was fitting that when he tallied career victory No. 100, he got it on the same mound he achieved No. 1 on nearly 11 years ago.
Nationals right-hander Chad Gaudin is eligible to come off the disabled list today, but there is still no timetable for when that will actually happen as he continues to rehab his sore shoulder and will need a rehab assignment before activating him is considered.
The Nationals have already used four different players at the leadoff spot this season but the one slotted in there on Tuesday afternoon for the third straight game, center fielder Roger Bernadina, may be keeping himself on the team even after injured center fielder Rick Ankiel comes off the disabled list if he continues to fill that role well.
The Nationals will open a three-game series tonight in Atlanta with a pretty standard lineup against the Braves and right-hander Tim Hudson. The only notable aspect is that Michael Morse, who was nursing a sore right knee for the past week and is also right-handed, will sit in favor of left-handed Laynce Nix in left field.
After striking out 61 times in their last five games, the last thing the Nationals probably want to see is Tim Hudson, who is 11-2 with a 1.88 ERA against the Nationals in his career. Here's how they've done in the past against him.
As the Nationals continue their 10-day, nine-game road trip through Philadelphia, Florida and Atlanta but until the team returns on Friday, Nationals and Orioles fans can get their baseball fix with a trip to Hagerstown.
With no game, I wrote a story for Tuesday's paper about shortstop Ian Desmond and his season -- and life -- to this point in 2011. But, as is usually the case, there were a lot of interesting tidbits that couldn't fit into the newspaper story so, without further ado, here are some of Desmond's thoughts on various topics, as well as what other people had to say about the Nationals shortstop as he embarks on this sophomore year in the major leagues.
For Nationals reliever Henry Rodriguez, the fact that he can hit 100-plus on the radar gun is both a blessing and a curse. It got him to the major leagues at age 22 with the Oakland Athletics and it made the Nationals think highly enough of him that they were willing to trade Josh Willingham for him (and outfielder Corey Brown) this offseason. But harnessing that heat is going to be a constant battle for Rodriguez and he was on the losing end of that fight Sunday afternoon when he pitched the bottom of the eighth inning in the Nationals 8-0 loss to the Marlins.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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