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Last night, it wasn't the usual suspects

Morning roundup

Willie Harris -- or, more precisely, Willie Harris's presence in the lineup -- has been the target of some significant fan venom this year, which is what happens when your batting average resembles the price of a cup of coffee. Harris allowed his struggles to wear on him, both on the field and away from it.

"It's hard not to take home," Harris said. "You take it home every night. When things are going bad and you're reading a lot of bad things and things are not so positive, it wears a toll on you. I was just really trying to get four hits in one at-bat. Go home, don't sleep. It's hard."

Lately, while coming off the bench, Harris is starting to turn around his season. In July he is 7 for 19 with six walks and a home run. It is, of course, a severely limited sample size. But it's a start.

Harris has been relying on advice from hitting coach Rick Eckstein: Win every pitch. The focus has helped Harris stop worrying about his overall numbers and about his status on the team. That's changed.

"My mind," Harris said. "My mind is a lot clearer. I'm just more focused on hitting the ball hard, not trying to get three hits in one at-bat. I'm trying to go up there and win every pitch, pitch by pitch.

"Right now, my mind is clear. I'm just trying to win every pitch. I'm just going to keep grinding it out. Hopefully this second half has some highlights for Willie Harris."

It did last night, when Harris roped a solo home run in the ninth inning that gave the Nationals needed breathing room. On a night when the Nationals' biggest star commanded most of the attention, Harris's homer capped a win in which Nationals' role players were pivotal.

Of the Nationals' nine hits, two came from Ryan Zimmerman and none came from Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham. Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond both drove in two runs in the fourth inning. Cristian Guzman delivered his second home run of the season, a two-run shot that put the Nationals ahead for good in the fifth inning.

Roger Bernadina helped on offense and defense. He drove in Dunn with a sacrifice fly for the Nats' first run and saved Stephen Strasburg a run in the fourth.

With one out and Drew Stubbs on third, Strasburg induced a fly to right. Stubbs tagged up and bolted, and Bernadina rifled a throw home. It carried Ivan Rodriguez up the line, and he made an exquisite, sweeping tag to complete the double play and end the inning. Strasburg pointed first at Rodriguez, then Bernadina in acknowledgment.

By the end of the night, Strasburg had become the first Nationals starter since Shairon Martis to win three consecutive starts. He couldn't have done it without help from unlikely sources.

FROM THE POST

Stephen Strasburg flashed some dominance and even more competitiveness in an 8-5 victory over the Reds in front of -- among about 40,000 others -- Pete Rose. ...

... And also, as Dan Steinberg chronicles, Pete Rose's lady friend and Pete Rose's absurd hat.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Norfolk 10, Syracuse 7: Luis Ordaz went 2 for 4 with a home run. In a rehab assignment, Tyler Walker allowed three earned runs in one inning on two hits.

Harrisburg 2, New Britain 0: Ross Detwiler allowed no runs in seven innings on five hits and one walk, striking out seven. Jesus Valdez went 2 for 4. Rafael Martin allowed no base runners in 2/3 of an inning, striking out one.

Salem 3, Potomac 2 (Game 1, eight innings): Jordan Zimmermann allowed no runs in four innings on two hits and no walks, striking out four. Josh Johnson went 3 for 4 with a double.

Potomac 4, Salem 1 (Game 2, seven innings): In his first start since his promotion to Potomac, Daniel Rosenbaum allowed one earned in five innings on three hits and two walks, striking out three. Tyler Moore went 2 for 3 with a double and a home run.

Asheville 13, Hagerstown 10: Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 4 with a home run and five RBI. Sandy Leon went 2 for 3 with a double two walks.

Vermont was postponed.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Stephen Strasburg is finding his comfort zone, Mark Zuckerman writes.

Matt Capps is the most valuable reliever who could get traded, Jerry Crasnick thinks.

The Nats' offense helped Strasburg to a win, Bill Ladson writes.

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 22, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg , right field  
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Next: Today's lineup

Comments

Didn't Jay Bruce get thrown out by Roger?

Posted by: krw1010 | July 22, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Didn't Jay Bruce get thrown out by Roger?

Posted by: krw1010 | July 22, 2010 8:09 AM

Yes. Stubbs was the batter, not the runner.
Bottom 4th: Cincinnati
- J. Gomes struck out swinging
- J. Bruce singled to shallow right center
- M. Cairo singled to shallow right, J. Bruce to third, M. Cairo to second advancing on throw
- D. Stubbs flied out to shallow right, J. Bruce out at home

Posted by: Sunderland | July 22, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Thought this was interesting, from the main story:

"Said Harris: 'When Strasburg pitches, we all elevate our game. We have to. He's our horse. We know we have to score four runs for him. Six-run lead, it's pretty much over.'"

So the Nats' hitters try harder when Strasburg pitches? That must make the Nats' other pitchers feel real good when they get hung with a one-run loss.

Posted by: gilbertbp | July 22, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, this is a bit flowery and philisophical.

Regarding Willie comments ('When Strasburg pitches, we all elevate our game...'), I think there is something to this actually.

It's not a comment on the Nats, it's a comment on the nature of competition and a 162 game season.

You see it often in baseball, unheralded pitchers throw lights out when they're opposing a big time ace.

Baseball's a strange game in that it's a balance of relaxation and focus. Thinking can paralyze you and not thinking can embarrass you.

Players (people) know when there's a big game, a big moment, and focus and determination are elevated. People can't do this every day, every game, every pitch for a 162 game season. But they can do it for a moment, or for a game, or for a series, with some players (people) handling this better than others.

It's why some pitchers are good closers and some are not. And why good closers sometimes get hit hard when they come in for work in a game that's not close.

Sorry for the soap box oration.

Back to snarky-ness.

Bernadina's a pretty good outfielder. He's kinda fast, has a good arm, tracks fly bals pretty well.
How come no one's ever thought to perhaps try him in centerfield?

Posted by: Sunderland | July 22, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Good news from the minors with the pitching, except Walker who seems to be out of gas.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | July 22, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

How come no one's ever thought to perhaps try him in centerfield?

Posted by: Sunderland | July 22, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Because we don't have the balls to bench Nyjer. We should move Roger to center and Morse to right field.

Posted by: PAskinsfan17 | July 22, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Very interesting and thoughtful post Sunderland. I think this is what being a "clutch" player is all about as well. Some people have the ability to hone their focus at the biggest moments. We need a few of THOSE guys.

Posted by: egoodman8 | July 22, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

We won, lots of guys contributed, three curly Ws in a row for Jesus and the rehab pitchers threw well - yet people still want to come on here and b*t€h!

Posted by: Kev29 | July 22, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Kev29. Well said.

Posted by: fpcsteve | July 22, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Did Concinnati give Strasburg his shirt last night? Never seen such horrible wardrobe failure. It had to affect him having ot button his shirt between every pitch. I felt like getting him some duct tape or somtething. Tough night and he still dominated. I laughed out loud when Cabrera dove on a curve ball. Amazing. Saw that live whe Verlander first came to Baltimore and never thought I'd see another major league batter bail out on a curve ball again. Amazing.

Posted by: DCSec112 | July 22, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I thought Pete Rose had a lifetime ban from the game and wasn't allowed to show up at any stadium. Has that changed? If so when and how?

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 22, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Pete's allowed to pay for his own ticket. Baseball can ban him from that.

Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | July 22, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Willie:
I have always liked you, both as a ballplayer and a man. You always seem to have a great instinct for baseball. I have seen you make some amazing catches in the outfield. I also remember you as a .270-.280 hitter. The energy you bring to the club is great. Just hang in there. Things will get better. Just know, you have fans who respect you and are pulling for you in these hard times. Thanks for making the last few years of the Nats better!

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | July 22, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I can only imagine how Harris has felt, and I hope that "clearing his mind" produces the results that he wants. For my part, my criticism of putting him in the lineup has nothing to do with his value as a person. It's more exasperation that in what is supposed to be a meritocratic sport a consistent terrible level of performance seem irrelevant to playing time. My quibble is with Riggleman for putting the players and team in a position that is less than optimal, not with the player for going out and playing.

Posted by: JCCfromDC | July 22, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Awww, nice post, Nick. I second the emotion. Hang in there, Willie.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 22, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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