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Offense Comes To Life Late In Nats Win

Following Washington's 9-4 comeback win over Houston tonight, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman described Astros starter Brian Moehler as "one of those pitchers that kind of nibbles." The Nationals could get to Moehler, but they were going to have to wear him down first.

Through four and two-thirds innings, Washington had tallied five hits and a walk, yet had no runs to show for their work. Moehler was nibbling quite effectively.

But then Zimmerman smacked a double. And Adam Dunn followed with a walk. And Elijah Dukes laced an RBI single. And Austin Kearns tacked on an RBI single of his own. The impression was set. This was how the Nationals were going to defeat the Astros on a night when their ace, John Lannan, said he struggled more than he had during any other outing this season -- with patience and disciplined hitting.

Eleven Washington hitters came to bat in the sixth, though by then Moehler had exited stage left. It was clear after five his nibbling habits were wearing thin. The Astros, instead, left caring for a two-run lead up to relievers Wesley Wright and Felipe Paulino.

But Anderson Hernandez led off with a walk. And then Cristian Guzman singled. Nick Johnson and Zimmerman walked. Dunn and Dukes singled. Kearns broke the rhythm when he was hit by a pitch, though neither his manager nor his teammates seemed to mind.

"I think when we get into that part of our lineup where we have guys that are so patient at the plate - the Nicks and the Dunns and the Dukes - and right now the way Zimmerman is, there is a very good chance that we can do some damage," Manager Manny Acta said.

All told, the Nationals tallied five runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh for good measure. Washington compiled a season-high 15 hits on the night, nine of which came during innings 5-7.

Zimmerman matched a career-high with four hits, the first time since Sept. 10, 2006 he had accomplished such a feat. His first-inning single extended his hitting streak to 22 games.

"In the case of the game today, you've got to give credit to Zimmerman for basically staying in there and kind of giving us hope," Dukes said. "He was hitting and hitting and everybody was just like, you know, we might as well join him. That's the kind of thing that we kind of had going. We ain't just going to let him hit by hisself. He just kept going and we just kept feeding off of Zim."

By Steve Yanda  |  May 4, 2009; 11:34 PM ET
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Next: Lineups


thanks steve, glad someone from the post besides tracee is out there doing some baseball work

Posted by: formerlylove1 | May 5, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

It's great to see the patience at the plate, though I was worried on my way home listening to the early innings — quite a few times I heard Mssrs Slowes/Jageler comment on the first-pitch swings. They definitely settled in later on for some great counts, including Lannan (again)!

(from previous post thread)
On a side note, keeping thoughts/prayers for Rick Ankiel — awaiting word on his condition from running head-first into the centerfield wall, and being carted off on a stretcher (at the very least (and thankfully) he was able to give the thumbs-up from the cart)...

Posted by: HotNats | May 5, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I was at tonight's game.

I think this is the turnaround game for the season. We picked up our ace and carried him to victory in miserable weather.

This is the first conversational, fun, behind-the-scenes-in-the-game quote I've seen from Dukes this year. I believe if that guy loosens up and learns to kid with reporters, he's going to be a hurricane for the Nationals for years to come.

Our offense is there. Pitching getting there. Defense is there. We can start winning now.

Tonight is also the night the Nats learned the killer instinct. We had a team down and stepped on their throat, just like they would've done to us.

May 4, 2009: the Nats' turning point.

Posted by: ThinkingOne | May 5, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

2 all well played games in a row. Over half the order hitting .300, great job Eck! Can we enjoy these 2 and root for 3 and stop bashing Manny for a day? If we played .500 for a month would everyone be happy? Can't wait to get to the park tomorrow and ride out the rain.

Go Nats!

Posted by: sec218 | May 5, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Yay, Yanda!!!

"He seems a little more mature, his jaw a little sharper, maybe a little more tan. Whatever, something's making him a little cuter."

NatsNut, you and my red-headed Cubs-fan fiance are on the same page here, she made the same comment about his jaw.

Posted by: Section506 | May 5, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

"He was hitting and hitting and everybody was just like, you know, we might as well join him."

OMG, best quote from a National in a looooong time. Hilarious.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 5, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

Nice... Houston used 6 relievers on Sunday night, 2 more tonight (Wright pitched both nights), so work the counts, get 0-2 Oswalt outta there, roll on and over their bullpen, take 3 wins on out to LA...I love it!
Dare we be the upstart team that hands the Dods their first home loss this season? Granted, it is D-Cab slated to start, but hey, Clayton Kershaw's 0-2 also...
Damn, this is good Kool-aid!

Posted by: HotNats | May 5, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Hey, it's high time he lost the baby fat in favor of the fat new contract and joined his compadres Wright and Markakis in the lean mean dept. If he also proves for the rest of the season that he's figured out how to throw accurately to first flatfooted then he just might live up to all the 'face of the franchise' hype heaped on him since he first got here, and in the process hopefully inspire his teammates not only with the bat, but in sharpening their act defensively too (includes you Elijah)

I will attend today with bells on -- finally a weekday special, yea!

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | May 5, 2009 1:42 AM | Report abuse

Zim's up to .333, so the heck with all those who say he wasn't worth Markakis money. Wins feel so good. I hope they feel as good when we take them for granted (and I hope to have to grapple with that!)

Posted by: nats24 | May 5, 2009 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Never mind the Wright/Markakis compairsons "the face of the franchise" needs to become a clutch hitter in every aspect,make the other teams managers and pitchers fear you, make opposing fans and broadcasters say "uh oh" when you come to the plate with men on, become a student of the game that's if one day you want to be mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Mike Schmidt,Eddie Matthews,Brooks Robinson and others,it starts with you and your daily approach Ryan Zimmerman you need to be the leader of this team.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 5, 2009 4:59 AM | Report abuse

I was very happy for the win, so I don't want to seem like I am complaining. And, for the first time, Lannan got some run support.

But I really thought with a little better defense, he wouldn't have given up ANY runs. The run in the first was finally called unearned (they kept going back and forth on that), and then if Guzman/Dukes catches those two bloopers, those three earned runs never happen.

Lannan has been very lucky in the health category, but when it comes to defense and run support, completely unlucky. Tonight he got run support, but that was because they were hitting against a high school bullpen.

Posted by: kevinx | May 5, 2009 6:15 AM | Report abuse

Hey, great win! Almost half the league has a losing record, we can still save face on this season and compete, as long as our bullpen shows up.

Posted by: 1stpick | May 5, 2009 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Now thats the sytle. Great to listen to Charlie and Dave talking about Nats racing around the base paths instead of...., well you know the rest of the story.

On another note; the stuffed suits on ESPN BBTN made a wise crack about the Nats (like we haven't been through that before)

Karl Ravitch on Zimms 22 game hitting streak.

Ravitch: Zimmerman continues to rack up the hits, here he lines an opposite field double down the right field line scoring Guzman. Thats 22 straight games for Zimmerman, oh you thought I said there was only 22 fans in the stands, the Nats are playing to some mighty small crowds this year.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 5, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

this team is so close. if rizzo can just fix the bullpen and successfully replace crabrera.

Posted by: MrMadison | May 5, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Wait a minute. That was a Dukes quote, wasn't it?

It had all the earmarks of a Dunn quote, so I guess I skimmed the name and assumed it was he who said that.

When Dukes is so loose he starts sounding like Dunn, well, that's not a bad thing, is it?


This is the first conversational, fun, behind-the-scenes-in-the-game quote I've seen from Dukes this year. I believe if that guy loosens up and learns to kid with reporters, he's going to be a hurricane for the Nationals for years to come.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 5, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

"He just kept going and we just kept feeding off of Zim."

Here's hoping on of RZ's teammates is able to say this about 900 more times in the next 10 years.

Posted by: ajtrue78 | May 5, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The Dukes quote was the highlight of the season so far for me. Maybe he thinks and talks like that all the time but hearing him praise another player for taking some leadership and being willing to follow that example? That is great stuff. This kid had about as bad an upbringing as you can get. If he can shake that off and become a solid player who keeps his nose clean, it would be a great personal story in addition to adding a strong player to the team. Great stuff.
Go Nats!

Posted by: Avar | May 5, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Beimel is scheduled to be back tomorrow. I think that will help quite a bit.
this team is so close. if rizzo can just fix the bullpen . . .

Posted by: lowcountry | May 5, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

eck (and the guys he has affected) deserve a lot of credit for the condition of our bats.

but the number of ways adam dunn has positively affected the team are so welcome and a bit surprising, considering what we imagined him to be when we acquired him.

1. he is great in the clubhouse.
2. he is fun to watch as a patient hitter, driving nibblers nuts and taking walks.
3. his patience and approach have been contagious. what is his buddy Kearns' OBP?
4. zim is relaxed and has a healed soldier, but hitting ahead of adam has helped him a lot, especially impressive in the cold weather.
5. he hasn't been horrible in the field, just pretty bad.
6. he doesn't want to leave the lineup for a rest. he's a gamer.
7. he criticizes himself.
8. you can tell he really wants to win, that the team is important to him.
9. the big blasts come with some regularity.
10. he has been stroking for hits other than HRs.

Posted by: nova_g_man | May 5, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

soldier=shoulder, lacka coffee and freudian slip

Posted by: nova_g_man | May 5, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I agree w/ nova_g_man's praise of Dunn.

I was excited when the Nats signed him, but he's exceeded my expectations, particularly with his positive attitude through the team's early struggles. Hopefully he and Zimm can be the leaders that the team needs to turn this season around and claw back toward .500.

Looking at the standings throughout the NL, if you claw back to .500, who knows??

Go Nats!

Posted by: usmc53 | May 5, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Our recent re-visit of Milledge, his recalcitrance and intransigence in regard to his approach at the plate contrast sharply with my favorite Elijah Dukes quote:

"I'm always proud of walks. I love walks. That's my motto a walk is as good as a hit."

Posted by: nova_g_man | May 5, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I like your analysis on #5, nova-g. lol

Posted by: lowcountry | May 5, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Public plea to Eck: Please teach Lannan how to bunt, please.

Posted by: johnnybaconbitz | May 5, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

0-2 count, then walks:
Dunn's calling card settles Nats.
Follow the Donkey!

Posted by: HaikuMan | May 5, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

karma...I have a good feeling about today. I think they will win this one and then go out west and hand the Doggers there first home loss. Now that would be awesome.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 5, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

usmc53: You've got my vote for cheerleader of this team and i appreciate your unbridled enthusiasm,here in A-T-L the Nats are just an afterthought, they have an afternoon baseball show here on the "sportstation of the south" 680 the fan where former UGA QB "Buck" Beleuu discuss MLB for about thirty minutes and on this past Friday Beleuu along with his smug co-host John Kincaid were talking about the NL East after discussing each team when it was time to talk about the Nats they both snickered and said "they aren't even on the radar" trust me i couldn't call fast enough where i promptly reminded them that the season is a marathon not a sprint and that the NL East would be hearing from the Nats soon enough!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 5, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Way to represent dargregmag. We Nats fans may be few, but we are here. Our loyalty will someday be rewarded. GO NATS. Perhaps they forget in Atlanta how we wore them out last year.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 5, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I agree, go usmc53 go! You were the prophet last night! And thanks for standing up for the Nats in ATL, dargregmag!

Posted by: Section109 | May 5, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"Our recent re-visit of Milledge, his recalcitrance and intransigence in regard to his approach at the plate contrast sharply with my favorite Elijah Dukes quote:

"I'm always proud of walks. I love walks. That's my motto a walk is as good as a hit."

Posted by: nova_g_man"

Did Dukes really say this, or was it just the guy in the MASN fan commercial about Dukes's walk off walk? It's like the exact same quote.

On a side note, do you think Milledge ever actually speaks in haiku?

Posted by: GalRevelsInPee | May 5, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Call me a homer but, I think this team is ready to break out.

My only concern is that it is always tough to go on a west coast swing. If they can 4-4 on the left coast, I think that would keep the momentum going when they come back for an 11 game homestand.


Posted by: Section505203 | May 5, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget to credit Willie Harris for getting things rolling with his rally towels, cap, and bat. What a hoot!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 5, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

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