The Washington Times - March 21, 2008, 02:31PM

The Nationals lead 2-0 after four innings here in Port St. Lucie. Felipe Lopez drove in one on a sacrifice groundout in the second, and Austin Kearns hit a (long) solo homer in the fourth. A couple other observations:\

\ —Manny Acta and trainer Lee Kuntz came out to look at Elijah Dukes after his double in the second inning. Dukes strained his right hamstring running the bases last week and hasn’t played since. He never really accelerated on his double, although that was partially because he hit it into the left field corner and was never in any jeopardy of being thrown out. But it’s something the Nationals continue to monitor. You can say this about Dukes, though: He hits the ball hard. He’s jumped on pitches in both of his at-bats, hitting a hard liner to left for an out in the fourth inning.\


\ —Paul Lo Duca’s looked fine in his first game back. He’s 1-for-2, has run the bases without any problem and done what’s been asked of him behind the plate. Aside from catching a foul popup in the third inning and attempting to throw out a runner in the fourth, that hasn’t been anything extraordinary. But he’s passed the first test.\

\ —Matt Chico has been steady through four innings. He’s issued one walk and gone deep in the count to a number of hitters, but he’s getting groundball outs. Manny Acta hinted this morning Chico would be the final starter in the team’s rotation at the beginning of the season, and he’s done nothing to diminish his case here today.\