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Various notes of relative encouragement for your Saturday

First, the game itself. Plenty worked just right for the Nationals last night. Wily Mo Pena hit a home run. Manny Acta used another itemized list of bullpen arms to hold a lead. Somehow, the Nats exchanged three hits for five runs. (I believe "opportunistic" is the apt word.) Oh, and did I mention that Wily Mo Pena hit a home run?

A few other items that might also lift your spirits.

SHAWN HILL: Said his arm feels well enough to start Tuesday in San Diego. Counting the skipped start last week and the extra off days, that would be his first outing since May 16.

PAUL LO DUCA: Said his rehab is right on track. He plans to resume throwing Monday and maybe pick up a bat a week after that. Within two weeks, he guessed, he'll be ready for a rehab assignment. On account of his hand injury, Lo Duca hasn't played since the first week of May; his replacement, Jesus Flores, had another clutch double last night. Noting Flores's success, I asked Lo Duca if he thought he deserved to return to the lineup when healthy again. To his credit, he didn't say he SHOULD. "Good question. I don't know," he said. "I'll just get healthy, and wherever Manny wants to put me he puts me. But I still need to get healthy, get back in playing shape first."

RYAN ZIMMERMAN: Said after the game last night that his sixth inning double was particularly encouraging because it felt like something he'd been doing in earlier seasons. For one thing, it came with runners on base. For another, Zimmerman took the ball to the opposite field. Those are encouraging signs for a guy batting .176 with runners in scoring position and for a guy whose batting charts suggest less opposite-field hitting than in 2006 and 2007. Acta believes, though, that Zimmerman is pretty much out of the slump that consumed his first month. Slowly, Zimmerman's stats are catching up to expectation -- and that's with almost no protection behind him in the lineup.

By Chico Harlan  |  May 24, 2008; 11:26 AM ET
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