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When the clubhouse doors open...

We had one of the more memorable games of the season tonight. It started with a team meeting and ended with Jesus Flores's walk-off hit. In between, the Nationals got key contributions from their other promising young players (Elijah Dukes went 2-for-3 and scored the winning run; Lastings Milledge hit HR No. 7) and nearly let a game slip away.

What does it all mean?

Well, for one thing, Manny Acta has a knack for knowing when to call team meetings. He called three last year -- including one after his team started 1-8 -- and after every one, the Nats responded with a win.

One win broke a six-game losing streak. One win broke a five-game skid. One win broke a seven-game skid.

This meeting was precipitated by some horrible play in the previous week -- especially defensively. Managers sometimes have a stomach for losing. They don't have a stomach for losing because of mental errors.

Here's some of what Acta said about the message he gave his team.

"We just wanted to make all these guys away that you can't get complacent just losing. We miss those guys, but still, we're not throwing Independent League guys out there, and I felt like they were better than that. And just tighten up our defense a little bit. That was basically our meeting. Knock balls down. Back up bases. Those are the things we need to do to compete with the teams that are loaded with superstars or have a high payroll."

And why now?

"Enough was enough. We've been playing bad defense since Seattle, even when we won the series over there. And ending with the game yesterday. Lo Duca throws the ball, and the ball is bouncing around the infield. Stuff where it doesn't take talent to do it. You don't need to be a $10 million player. You don't need to be super-talented to throw the ball, move your feet, catch the ball. To back up a base. You can have zero talent and still back up a base."

By Chico Harlan  |  June 25, 2008; 11:36 PM ET
 
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