- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2007

TORONTO — Progress has come in baby steps, but Ryan Langerhans is OK with that.

The Washington Nationals outfielder has slowly but surely found his hitting stroke since his acquisition last month and finally is starting to feel like himself again.

“I feel pretty good right now at the plate,” he said yesterday after going 1-for-3 and recording a hit in his fifth straight game. “I think part of it probably has to do with getting more playing time. And also, [hitting coach] Lenny Harris has done a great job working with me.”

At-bats were few and far between for Langerhans when he first arrived from the Oakland Athletics on May 3. Relegated to fourth outfielder duties, he made only spot starts.

But manager Manny Acta has since named him his everyday center fielder against right-handed pitchers, with Nook Logan now only starting against lefties, and Langerhans has taken advantage of the opportunity. He homered Wednesday in Baltimore and Friday in Toronto, and now owns a .243 average and 11 RBI in 38 games with the Nationals.

That might not sound like much, but it’s significant progress for a guy who was hitting .062 at the time of his trade.

For weeks, all Langerhans could think about was digging himself out of that huge hole.

“It was tough, because when I got here, I was trying to get out of that slump with one swing of the bat,” he said. “Every time, I was trying to hit my way out of it. I started to relax and just see pitches and start drawing walks again just like I’ve always done. I think that’s made a big difference.”

Indeed, Langerhans‘ patience at the plate has been impressive. He has drawn 14 walks in 84 plate appearances, good enough for a .369 on-base percentage.

“He’s got a lot to offer,” Acta said. “He’s still got some catching up to do, because of how rough a start he had this year. But he’s got some pop and he knows the strike zone.”

Watson ties mark

Langerhans‘ five-game hitting streak pales in comparison with the one Class AAA outfielder Brandon Watson has strung together over the last month and a half. With a fourth-inning double yesterday in Columbus’ 5-4 win at Ottawa, Watson extended his streak to 42 games, tying an International League record that has stood for 95 years.

Jack Lelivelt also hit in 42 straight games for the 1912 Rochester Hustlers.

Watson, who is batting .365 (62-for-170) during the streak, also singled in the sixth. He last went hitless April 30 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“It’s always about the team, and if you play good as an individual it helps the team,” he told the Ottawa Citizen. “Everyone is here for the same reason and that’s to get back to the big leagues, but it makes the time go by easier when you win ballgames. [The streak] has been fun, but the team is always first.”

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