- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2007

Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta tinkered with his batting order last night, moving Dmitri Young into the cleanup slot and dropping Austin Kearns to fifth.

Acta also dropped Brian Schneider to No. 8 in the order and moved second baseman Ronnie Belliard into the seventh spot. Those moves were designed to give Acta’s batting order more balance with a left-handed bat following a right-handed hitter.

“It give us an opportunity to split Dmitri and Schneider; they’re not the fastest guys, and it will give us an opportunity here and there that Belliard hitting behind [Ryan] Church maybe have a play on or something,” Acta said.

In the first five games this season, Kearns had hit fourth and Schneider sixth. Kearns, who needs just one RBI for the 300th of his career, has always been a middle of the order hitter. Kearns was primarily Frank Robinson’s No. 5 hitter for the majority of the second half of last season after being acquired in an eight-player trade with the Cincinnati Reds last July 13.

“Fourth, fifth, it doesn’t matter,” said Kearns, who entered last night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks hitting .263. “It’s not a big deal to me. You’ve got to go out and do [it] wherever you’re hitting. Wherever you are in the middle of the order, you’re there to drive in runs and get guys in.”

Young, who was initially signed to a minor league deal during spring training, entered last night’s game hitting .316 with one home run and four RBI.

“It’s no different. I’m hitting behind [Ryan] Zimmerman instead of behind Kearns,” Young said. “I don’t look too much into it. It’s going to be right, left, right instead of right, right, left and it mixes things up a little bit. That’s just cleanup as part of the beginning of the game. There might be times where I’m batting leadoff. There may be situations that come up where I’m going to be second, or I get a guy over to second base for Kearns to drive him in. My approach is not going to change.”

Hill’s ERA plunges

An official scoring change yesterday slashed Shawn Hill’s earned run average in half. The Canadian right-hander will certainly take it.

Hill’s ERA went from an inflated 7.20 to a respectable 3.60. The play in question occurred during the first inning of Tuesday’s 9-3 loss to the Florida Marlins. Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla hit a hard ground ball up the middle. Nationals shortstop Josh Wilson made a diving stop to his left on Uggla’s ball.

However, Wilson tried to start a double-play by flicking the ball out of his glove. Wilson’s flick sailed wide of second baseman Felipe Lopez and the bag and all runners were safe. The play originally was scored a fielder’s choice. Upon further review, Wilson was charged with an error because there was sufficient time for Wilson to get the ball out of his glove and start the double play.

“I threw the way I threw, so it doesn’t change that a whole lot, but in terms of numbers, it makes it look a little bit better,” Hill said. “Hopefully, down the road when you add it all up, it’s going to bring [my ERA] down minimally, but it’s a little bit better.”

Hill originally was charged with four earned runs allowed in five innings. With the scoring change, Hill was charged with only two earned runs. Hill first heard of the scoring change on Wednesday from his family.

“My family told me they were looking around and I didn’t realize it,” Hill said. “I didn’t go check it or anything. They saw the difference and my profile showed the same thing. So, they saw a discrepancy and told me about it.”

For Wilson, that marked the first of two errors in the game.

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