- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

ATLANTA — The Washington Nationals were rained out for only the second time this season yesterday after the powerful outer bands of Hurricane Katrina brought storms to Atlanta.

Last night’s scheduled game against the Braves will be made up tomorrow as part of a doubleheader. The first game will begin at 4:35 p.m., and the nightcap is scheduled to start approximately 30 minutes after the opening game’s conclusion.

The rainout could be beneficial to the Nationals (67-63). With an important four-game series against the National League East-leading Braves (74-56) at Turner Field, manager Frank Robinson gets an extra day to rest his overworked bullpen.

“[Doubleheaders are] a pain. You would rather play them one at a time,” Robinson said. “At least I get a break now, and then I’ll have to pay the price on Wednesday.”

Right-hander John Patterson (8-4, 2.43 ERA), who was scheduled to start last night, will pitch tonight against Braves right-hander Jorge Sosa (9-2, 2.56).

“We ran from a couple hurricanes when I was a kid, but this is obviously one of the biggest ones they’re saying to hit the United States,” said Patterson, who’s from southeastern Texas near the Louisiana border. “I would rather pitch tonight, yeah, without a doubt. I was ready to pitch, but at the same time, it’s the end of the season, and an extra day is not going to hurt me at this point.”

Robinson slightly altered the pitching rotation for tomorrow’s doubleheader. Esteban Loaiza (9-9, 3.57) will start the first game, and Livan Hernandez (14-6, 3.87) will pitch in the nightcap. Hernandez originally was scheduled to pitch today followed by Loaiza tomorrow. Braves manager Bobby Cox is undecided on his starters beyond Sosa.

Tomorrow will be the Nationals’ second doubleheader. Washington was rained out in Philadelphia on Aug. 16 and split a twinbill against the Phillies two days later.

“Maybe the night off will do [the slumping hitters] a lot of good,” Robinson said. “You’ve got to think of any little thing to try to get a little kick going. … A straw in a windstorm can’t hurt.”

Just not the same

Robinson had planned to reinsert slumping second baseman Jose Vidro into the lineup last night after giving him the day off Sunday.

“He needed a day off,” Robinson said before Sunday’s game. “He’s hurting, but he’s out-of-sync at the plate. … Just sit and watch a game — sometimes [that] helps him out.”

Vidro, a .304 career hitter entering the season, is batting just .262 this year. Since coming off the 15-day disabled list July 5 after missing two months with a partially torn left-ankle tendon, Vidro is hitting .247 (45-for-182) with three home runs, 13 doubles and 15 RBI.

The switch-hitter missed 54 games after injuring his ankle sliding home in a May 5 game at the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he spent most of spring training rehabbing from last September’s season-ending knee surgery. Then Vidro hyperextended his right elbow while batting in spring training.

Until this year, Vidro had not hit lower than .294 since 1998 — his first full season in the majors.

“He’s not even close to being what he is capable of being and what he has been when he’s healthy: a doubles machine that drives in runs,” said Robinson, Vidro’s manager the past four seasons. “He gets you that big, tough hit.

“He was coming into the season trying to catch up, and that just compounds things because you’ve never settled in and you’re never at the level of players that you are playing against. They’re ahead of you, and they’re still ahead of him. What this points out again is how important spring training is.”

Extra bases

Injured outfielder Alex Escobar was in Baltimore yesterday to be examined by foot specialist Lewis Schon. Escobar, who has been on the disabled list the entire season, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in spring training. The Nationals acquired Escobar, once a top prospect with the New York Mets, in a Feb. 13 trade with the Chicago White Sox for minor league outfielder Jerry Owens. …

Right-hander Ryan Drese was examined yesterday in California by orthopedic surgeon Lewis Yocum to get a second opinion on his injured right shoulder. Results of the examination were unavailable last night. Following Sunday’s 6-0 shutout loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at RFK Stadium, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said there was a good possibility Drese will need surgery to repair a slight tear in his labrum.

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