Nats’ Laynce Nix thrown a change-up by playing at first

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Stuck with an injury-stricken squad, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson turned to usual left fielder Laynce Nix before the top of the seventh inning Monday and, in desperate need of a first baseman, asked the towering Texan when the last time he played the position was.

“High school,” Nix said.

“You’ve got a good memory, don’t you?” Johnson asked half-jokingly, as if that was the prerequisite for playing the position.

Except it wasn’t a joke.

So on Nix went and, as luck would have it, it didn’t take much time for him to be tested. On the first at-bat of the inning, Nix caught a pop-up from Chicago Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson and, after flipping the ball to his teammates, he turned around and sneaked a grin to those remaining in the dugout.

Of course, by then Nix had reason to be feeling fearless: The 30-year-old already had thumped his first triple of the season an inning before to cut a two-run Cubs lead in half.

And, after drawing a bases-loaded walk that tied the game in the bottom of the seventh, then watching the Nationals win 5-4 in 10 innings, Nix also had reason to feel fantastic.

“It was pretty wild, I’m still trying to figure out how that worked out,” Nix said about his reassignment to first base. “But it was fun.”

It also was gratifying. That’s because Washington has won 16 of its past 23 games dating to June 10. And, after losing so many close games to start the season, the Nationals have won eight consecutive games by either one run or in extra innings-or, as in this case, both.

“I’m usually not a told-you-so kind of guy, but when we were struggling and losing all those games, we knew it wouldn’t stay that way, it can’t,” Nix said. “If you look at the last month and a half, we’ve been on the right side of a lot of those results. It’s a tribute to us staying after it and being positive.”

That spans the course of the clubhouse. Indeed, even though he’s only been on the job for just more than a week, the stay-positive approach appears to apply to the new manager, too.

“I have confidence in everyone on the ballclub,” Johnson said. “If they’re on the roster, I’m going to use them.”

He proved that Monday. The Nationals utilized 20 of the 25 men on their roster in the extra-innings win against Cubs; the first game of a four-game set. And, in nudging Nix into the infield, he may have re-established his reputation for coalescing teams to a tee.

“Nixy looked like a Gold Glover out there,” Johnson said. “He looked like he still remembered how to play; he looked good over there. He’ll probably be in there tomorrow; I like the way things are going.”

For his part, Nix wasn’t so sure he’d be back at first base come Tuesday.

That’s not to say, however, if he is called back to first base, he isn’t ready.

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Nix said when asked if he was ready to return to the outfield.

“But I felt pretty comfortable.”

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