Outfielder Ryan Church became the 28th player in franchise history to hit 40 doubles in a season when he slammed two Thursday night against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a feel-good milestone for a guy who has spent much of September in a reserve role since the acquisition of Wily Mo Pena.
“It was cool,” Church said. “I mean, I probably should have done it a month ago, but circumstances prevented it. My goal was 50.”
With No. 40, Church became the fifth Washington Nationals player to achieve the feat since the team’s move to RFK Stadium in 2005. The others were Ryan Zimmerman this year and in 2006, Alfonso Soriano in 2006, Nick Johnson in 2006 and Brad Wilkerson in 2005,
Of course, it’s impossible to know how many of Church’s doubles just missed clearing the wall at RFK, now well-known as a place where home runs are hard to come by.
“There’s a lot of guys on this team who could hit more home runs,” said Church. “A lot of balls we hit for doubles would be over the wall anywhere else.”
Teammate Robert Fick offered another explanation for Church’s penchant for the two-bagger:
“He’s the most selfish player on the team,” Fick said jokingly. “He never goes for third.” (For the record, Church has one triple this year.)
Entering last night, Church was batting .429 with four doubles, three homers and 14 RBI since Aug. 29 despite declining playing time.
“I think he had the right attitude about it,” said manager Manny Acta, who penciled in Church to start last night against the Phillies. “And I think it was the first time he had that many at-bats in a season, and now he gets a breather and is energized.”
The Nationals activated Christian Guzman from the 15-day disabled list and put him into last night’s game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. Guzman, who tore a ligament in his left thumb June 24 while tagging out a runner, took batting practice last night and told the team he “feels good.”
Acta also said first baseman Dmitri Young is feeling better after being struck in the head by a batted ball against the Braves last weekend, but his return to the lineup is uncertain.
“The headaches are gone, [but] his neck’s still a little stiff,” Acta said. “He may be able to do some baseball activities. He’s not game ready yet, though.”
Much as he would like to, Acta said he will not put first-round draft pick Ross Detwiler into a game just so fans can get a glimpse of him this year.
“I want to so much,” Acta said. “But it has to make sense.”
Acta said he feels an obligation to put his best team on the field because the Nationals’ last handful of games have National League playoff implications. Also, he said, he would like the fourth-place Nationals to finish ahead of the Florida Marlins in the National League East.
Acta said the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins or the Mets’ David Wright should win the National League MVP award. He believes the honor should go to the player whose team wins the division. The Rockies’ Matt Holliday should be a close third, he said. …
Pre-game ceremonies featured a flyover by two Coast Guard helicopters and a rousing rendition of the national anthem by Musician First Class Lisa Williamson.