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Question of the Day
The Washington Nationals’ lineup isn’t built around one or two sluggers, guys who can take a game into their own hands and carry the rest of their teammates on their backs.
Nor is the Nationals’ pitching staff built around a single dominant starter who can go the distance or a hard-throwing reliever who can turn a game around in one quick burst.
No, for manager Manny Acta’s club to succeed, it must get production from all corners of its offense and it must get quality pitching from top to bottom.
Never was that more evident than during last night’s 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians, a game that didn’t feature one monstrous individual performance but boasted key contributions from countless team members.
Looking for a balanced offensive attack? How about all eight of Washington’s starting position players reaching base safely during a 12-hit effort. Looking for a collective pitching effort? Get 41/3 solid innings from the starter, then watch as six relievers combine to record the final 14 outs without surrendered another run.
“That’s the type of thing we like to do,” Acta said, “to keep everybody involved so as many people [as possible] can feel like part of the team.”
While it’s difficult to single out individuals, a few Nationals did stand out with their clutch performances.
Like Brandon Watson, the slap-hitting outfielder who needed a 43-game hit streak at Class AAA Columbus to earn a promotion earlier this week but proved his mettle last night with a pair of two-out, RBI hits.
Watson’s fourth-inning single to left put Washington on the board after several early missed opportunities. His sixth-inning double to right-center highlighted the game-winning rally and capped an impressive night for the 25-year-old.
“Two big hits by the kid,” Acta said.
It was only the second multihit performance in Watson’s 37-game career, the other having come Aug. 9, 2005, when he doubled and homered in his big-league debut at Houston, and it was much appreciated by the RFK Stadium crowd of 24,534.
“It seems like a long time,” Watson said of his previous two-hit game. “It’s been a while, but it’s baseball and I’m back here. I’m fortunate to be in the lineup and I’m going to play hard every day.”
Watson’s clutch hits helped give the Nationals the lead. Cristian Guzman’s seventh-inning homer (his first in 95 career games at RFK) served as the knockout punch to an Indians squad that has been among baseball’s best since Opening Day.
Equally important, though, was the collective performance Acta got from the seven pitchers who shut down Cleveland’s lineup over the course of the night.
Micah Bowie, 4-0 since joining the rotation a month ago, continued his renaissance and set a career mark when he struck out his seventh batter of the game in the fifth.
By Michael P. Orsi
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