- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The grand unveiling of Adam Dunn to 40,386 fans at Nationals Park on Monday played out like a sampler platter of everything - good and bad - Dunn brings to a lineup.

He drew a key walk in the first inning, doubled in the third, made a fielding error that cost the Nationals a run in the fourth, resurrected their chances of winning with a two-run blast to center in the eighth and struck out as the tying run in the ninth.

Afterward, as he has done every game this season, he sat at his locker and thoughtfully answered questions until reporters were sated, continuing to grow into his role as the team's unofficial spokesman after a 9-8 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Nationals' home opener dropped them to 0-7.

“I think, offensively, we made some strides [Monday],” Dunn said. “If it weren't for a couple big innings, we obviously win that game. We're going to figure it out. I don't know if it's going to be tomorrow or it's going to be June, but I promise you we're going to figure it out.”

Dunn's pluses and minuses as a baseball player are well-chronicled, but through seven games, it's difficult to argue he hasn't delivered a sizable net gain to the Nationals' lineup already. The question after seven games might be whether Dunn could have contributed any more to the Nationals' offense, which has scored 34 runs but still hasn't produced a win.

He is hitting .364 with two homers and eight RBI through that time and has drawn 11 walks. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) is a staggering 1.303, and the error, which gave Pedro Feliz an extra base in the fourth inning before he scored, was Dunn's first of the year.

He has delivered just one hit in seven plate appearances when the Nationals were tied, ahead or had the tying run at least on deck after the seventh inning but has contributed three walks in those situations.

“It's a small sample, but [this] is what we got him for,” manager Manny Acta said. “I think [fans] have seen him on TV doing it over there in Florida and also what he did in Atlanta. The guy's going to be there. His track record speaks for himself.”

Dunn took responsibility for the run facilitated by his error (“Put it on me,” he said). At least publicly, he said all the right things after the latest loss.

There's little doubt Washington is getting what it expected. There's more that Dunn, as impressive as he has been, can be the singular answer to all of the Nationals' problems.

“A lot of credit goes to the teams we're playing. We're playing some pretty good teams,” Dunn said. “That number could have been a lot more. That number could have been 55 or 60 runs, and we would have had a win.”

If Dunn, who has never played on a winning team, delivers a lasting change to the Nationals' clubhouse, it might be the growing hunger he has to be part of a winner, which crept out at times during the World Baseball Classic and has tinged his postgame comments early this year.

He was asked Monday when a string of losses becomes an unacceptable trend, and that hunger - the one that has built while Dunn's productive first week with the Nationals has gone unrewarded - showed up again.

“That's hard for me to answer because I expect to win every single day. I know people [go], 'Yeah, right, whatever,' but it's true,” Dunn said. “We've had chances to win every single game, probably, I'm assuming. They got the big hit and they made the big pitch, and we haven't - and that's why we're oh-and-whatever.”

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