As They Go For The Sweep...
Just a few pre-game notes here...
You'll notice a new middle infield combo tonight. Alex Cintron is at SS; Ronnie Belliard is at 2B. Both moves are pretty self-explanatory -- Manny Acta just wants to get some at bats for the reserves -- but Cintron, especially, is getting the start tonight for a reason. In the last four games, shortstop Alberto Gonzalez has made five errors, struggling both with his throwing and his glove. Granted, the whole Cintron/Gonzalez thing is just a bridge until Cristian Guzman comes off the DL, but one of those players will probably stick around once Guzman is healthy.
Here is what Acta said about Gonzalez's defensive woes:
"Tough to explain," Acta said. "This guy, everybody knows how good defensively he is. I think he made, like, one error in his first 38 or so games at shortstop [last year]. Unusual. But he's been a little shaky lately. He hasn't been his old self. But it's there. He's still a good defensive player. He'll probably go now a month without booting another ground ball."
Despite rumors of their interest, the Nationals are not exploring the possibility of signing current free agent Mark Mulder. The left-handed pitcher, a two-time all-star and former 20-game winner, has pitched just 12-2/3 innings during the last two years because of injury problems. Mulder's agent, Gregg Clifton -- a Scottsdale, Ariz., neighbor of acting general manger Mike Rizzo -- spoke with the club roughly a month ago about his client. But the Nationals have since backed off. Clifton has said that Mulder, who last pitched for the Cardinals, will be healthy enough to start big league games within two weeks.
Some things to keep an eye on...
The Nats are going for the sweep tonight. Their previous sweep? Aug. 29-31, 2008, against... the Braves.
Ryan Zimmerman has an 11-game hitting streak going. But it's an unusual sort of streak -- the result of routine productivity, not some torrid hot spell. During those 11 games, his average is .300 (15 for 50). His hit totals, game-by-game: 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1.
This is John Lannan's second start against Atlanta this year. On April 11, he allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings.
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