- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

On Sunday the Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride came through the District.

It should have stopped at Nationals Park and picked up Adam Dunn.

Dunn rolled out the thunder with two home runs - one of them a grand slam - and six RBI in an 8-5, face-saving win for the Washington Nationals in the finale of the “Battle of the Beltways” on Sunday at Nationals Park.

“It’s nice to have a guy like Adam behind you,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who had been intentionally walked to load the bases in the seventh inning with the Orioles leading 5-4, setting up Dunn’s 10th career grand slam.

Nice? It’s nice to have a guy like Adam Dunn behind you?

It’s more than nice. It is all the difference in the world for this Nationals lineup.

The entire situation that brought Dunn to the plate Sunday would have been different for Washington last season. Pinch hitter Anderson Hernandez led off the seventh with a single to right. Willie Harris followed with another single to right. Cristian Guzman came up to the plate with nobody out and moved the runners over with a sacrifice - taking the bat out of Zimmerman’s hands as he got the free pass.

Then Dunn drove a 2-2 pitch from left-handed reliever Jamie Walker into the left-field seats.

“If they want to walk Zimmerman, good, pitch to Dunn,” Washington manager Manny Acta said. “That’s not something we have had here in the past.”

Last year, the Nationals were putting Aaron Boone in the cleanup spot to face the Orioles. A very nice guy, but he hit all of five home runs the year before for the Florida Marlins.

That’s not thunder.

Dunn’s two home runs - one deep over the center-field wall and a second to the opposite field with the bases loaded - give him 14 on the season. He has already tied last year’s team-leading mark for homers.

That’s thunder.

“He showed today the difference he makes in our lineup and how much we needed him over here,” Acta said.

As opposed to last year’s whimpering offense, this year it has been robust - but was often wasted by pathetic bullpen performances. So it was frustrating for the Nationals to get some solid starting pitching performances this week from the young aces and finally some credible bullpen outings and have just one win to show for it on this 10-game homestand before Sunday’s victory.

“We’re getting great pitching now, and our offense is struggling.” Dunn said. “But that is one of those deals. You can’t stay hot offensively for a whole year. Hopefully we kind of had our bad run, and we’ll start swinging the bats a little better.

“We haven’t been doing what we’re really good at, and that’s hitting. If we continue to get people out, and get our hitting to come back, it’ll be really fun to watch.”

Fun is not a word that has been associated with the Nationals, who have the worst record in baseball at 13-30. Woeful has been the word, actually, if you Google it. And it certainly wasn’t fun for Nationals fans to watch Orioles fans invade their home turf this weekend and enjoy their team’s two wins - 4-2 and 2-1 - Friday and Saturday night. The whole atmosphere was not quite as festive and fun as last year’s series with Baltimore at Nationals Park, which drew more than 115,000 people. This three-game series drew a little more than 85,000.

But those Nationals fans who were among the 30,880 at the ballpark Sunday can say they were at the ballpark this year when it was fun - a rare accomplishment.

Sunday’s win gave Washington a 2-8 record for its longest homestand of the season to date. If you were going to win one game, the one you want is the getaway day - especially when you are going to play the varsity now in New York and Philadelphia.

“Bless the Lord we won this one because it’s been a really tough homestand, and it was going to be a long train ride to New York,” Acta said.

Now they can at least roll into New York on a winning note.

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