The Washington Times - May 8, 2009, 06:10PM

Good afternoon from Phoenix, where the temperature outside Chase Field is a balmy 103 degrees. And yes, it’s true what they say: It is a dry heat.

The temperature definitely has been raised a few extra degrees here in Diamondbacks land, where Bob Melvin has been fired as manager and replaced by A.J. Hinch. Amazing how Melvin could win NL Manager of the Year only 18 months ago and be out of a job today. But the D’backs are struggling — they come into tonight’s game 12-17 — and the front office felt a change was necessary.


So for the second straight day, the Nationals find themselves smack dab in the middle of a circus involving the opposing team. MannyGate yesterday, ManagerGate today. All the while, the Nats are just trying to lay low and quietly play decent baseball. They’ve actually won three of their last four official games, excluding the suspended ballgame against Houston from Tuesday that remains undecided.

How have they done this? By hitting a ton. It’s hard to believe, given this team’s offensive struggles, pretty much for the last four season, but this team can hit. Team batting average: .275, third-best in the NL. Team OBP: .363, second-best in the NL.

Here’s my favorite nugget: Seven of the Nats’ eight regular starters own batting averages of .290 or higher! Only Austin Kearns (.258) doesn’t fall into that category, but even he owns a sterling .410 on-base percentage.

The effect of all that is staggering. Games that in the past would have been unwinnable — how many times could the 2008 Nats have rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win? — are suddenly well within reach. The players know it.

“Our offense is good enough to where we never feel like we’re out of a game,” Adam Dunn said. “Six runs? We’ll take our chances.”

So with that in mind, here is Manny Acta’s starting nine for tonight, complete with their offensive splits (OBP/SLG/OPS)…

SS Cristian Guzman .392/.500/.892

1B Nick Johnson .414/.430/.844

3B Ryan Zimmerman .391/.560/.951

LF Adam Dunn .445/.559/1.005

CF Elijah Dukes .370/.506/.876

RF Austin Kearns .410/.515/.925

C Jesus Flores .372/.494/.866

2B Anderson Hernandez .430/.403/.833

P Shairon Martis .182/.182/.364