- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

PHILADELPHIA - Washington Nationals center fielder Brad Wilkerson produced one of the rarest feats in baseball last night when he hit for the cycle against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in the Nationals’ historic 7-3 victory.

Afterward, Wilkerson acknowledged that his accomplishment was special, but he was more interested in helping to produce the first victory in franchise history.

“Right now, I’m so glad that everybody did a great job tonight and we got our first win,” Wilkerson said. “I’ll look back on it and it’s extra special for all the things, the first win for the organization and to hit for the cycle, and doing so much for the team in our first win. Hopefully, I come out tomorrow and put some good swings on the ball and see what happens.”

It was Wilkerson’s second career cycle, following one for the Montreal Expos on June 24, 2003, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wilkerson became just the 26th player in major league history to do it twice.

Wilkerson hit his home run in the second inning when he crushed Brett Myers’ fastball 425 feet into Citizens Bank Park’s second deck in right field. In the fifth inning, Wilkerson singled to center. His triple came in the seventh inning to straightaway center field when the Phillies’ Kenny Lofton misplayed the deep blast and the ball rebounded hard off the wall and back into center field.

Wilkerson’s final at-bat in the eighth inning produced a ground-rule double that bounced once on the warning track before going over the center-field fence into some neatly arranged hedges. The last player to hit for the cycle against the Phillies was New York Mets outfielder Alex Ochoa on July 3, 1996.

Wilkerson, who went 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored, said he tweaked his left ankle a bit rounding second base on the triple but it’s nothing serious.

Vladimir Guerrero was the last player in franchise history to hit for the cycle when he did it against the Mets on Sept. 14, 2003.

“When you hit for the cycle, it’s always very impressive, but it’s not just him hitting for the cycle, it’s the way he did it and kept the pressure on the Phillies tonight,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “He got us on the board first; he had another big base hit with the double; the triple was another big base hit for us. I don’t think we collected or got anything on that one, but then he came back and got the big double.”

After last night, Robinson’s decision to bat Wilkerson in the leadoff spot looks brilliant. Wilkerson batted fifth in Sunday’s final exhibition game. In Monday’s Opening Day loss, Wilkerson led off and had the first hit in Nationals history when he singled in his first at-bat. But afterward, he struck out swinging three times.

Last year Wilkerson served as Robinson’s leadoff man for much of the season (107 games) and posted a .382 on-base percentage.

“People say, - Well, he hit 32 home runs last year - why don’t you hit him down in an RBI spot,’” Robinson said. ?But as I’ve said, and I don’t know if I’ve said it enough, he’s hit there in those spots and hasn’t been as productive as he has been for me the three times that I’ve put him up at the top. Right now, that [batting leadoff] could be his spot.

“He’s not an older guy, so maybe he’ll hit there two or three years and really get the hang of this [leadoff] thing and get mentally tough. Then moving him down the lineup, he might be the same type of productive hitter.”

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