- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007

For three months, Jason Bergmann dominated like few other pitchers in the National League and had little to show for it. So it only seems fair the Washington Nationals right-hander is finally starting to get run support just as he begins to struggle on the mound.

Bergmann has not been in top form his last two starts. He was roughed up for eight runs by the Florida Marlins over the weekend and allowed four runs in six-plus innings yesterday against the Houston Astros.

But the Nationals won both of those games, and Bergmann (2-5) earned the win yesterday, thanks to a couple of rare offensive outbursts from his teammates that resulted in a total of 21 runs. Washington had scored a total of 25 runs in Bergmann’s first 11 starts this year.

“I think I lead the major leagues in run support the last two games,” he said.

Still, the right-hander wasn’t totally satisfied with his performance yesterday. He allowed two solo homers and wasn’t as sharp with some of his breaking balls as he was earlier in the season.

But as manager Manny Acta pointed out, Bergmann came through enough to put his team in position to win.

“The kid did give us a good outing,” Acta said. “Thank God we were able to score all those runs.”

Lopez back on top

Felipe Lopez batted leadoff yesterday for the first time since June 10, and Acta said the move will be permanent.

The Nationals shortstop, who was bumped down in the order when he struggled to get on base at a regular clip, has shown improvement. In his last 16 games, Lopez has a .339 on-base percentage.

“We feel — me and him — that he’s ready to do it again,” Acta said. “He’s had some better at-bats. He feels he’s ready to do it, and all along I felt that this is the ideal guy to lead off for us.”

The move also was precipitated by the expected return in the next week of outfielder Alex Escobar, who will bump Nook Logan and Ryan Langerhans to the bench and leave Washington with no other natural leadoff options.

“Obviously, the guys that we have tried there haven’t set themselves apart from the rest of the guys,” Acta said. “Also, we have to think about when Escobar comes back, Lopez is a guy who’s going to lead off anyways.”