The Nationals came through in the ninth
With one out in the ninth inning last night, Manager Jim Riggleman sent Willie Harris to pinch-hit. Behind him lurked Nyjer Morgan and Cristian Guzman. In June, those three, the bridge to Ryan Zimmerman in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, hit .077, .236 and .250, respectively.
The Nationals, just like most of their season, could not find clutch hits for much of last night - they went 0 for their first 8 with runners in scoring position. With the Nationals in need of a run, Harris, Guzman and Morgan shed their slumps for at least the moment and combined to create the game-winning rally.
If the Nationals are going to turn their season around, they need contributions from players who have provided little during their tailspin. When Ryan Zimmerman smacked the game-winning sac fly to right field, Harris slid across home plate with the winning run.
"It just feels great to be able to go out and contribute," Harris said. "I'm a strong cat mentally. I know how the game goes. I'm doing a lot of pinch-hitting right now. I just need to make the most of every opportunity I get."
Harris, who is hitting .155, added, "Last year this time, I was hitting .160," Harris said. "I hate to say this, but I'm right where I'm supposed to be."
Harris started off the inning with a six-pitch walk against Pedro Feliciano. Up came Morgan, who had already driven in the tying run with a single off of Johan Santana. He planned to bunt off Feliciano - "I always know when I'm going to bunt," Morgan said. He dragged one to the right side, into no-man's land between the mound and first. When Feliciano could not scoop the ball up, Morgan had the base.
Guzman followed by smoking a single to left, loading the bases with one out for Zimmerman. One inning and three plate appearances does not necessarily portend anything for either of those three slumping players. Maybe it's a blip. But Morgan in his short career has always been much better in the second half, and the rest of the struggling Nationals can only be so bad for so long.
What that one inning and those three players reaching base means is probably this: The Nats may not be good enough to contend, but they're not as bad as that 13-40 record since May 15, either.
"That's the ebb and flow of the season," Riggleman said.
Said Harris: "I know how the game is. Things are going to turn around. I know that."
FROM THE POST
The Nationals started July with a 2-1 walk-off victory over the New York Mets, winning behind Livan Hernandez's seven strong inning.
The first-place Braves are thriving thanks to their offseason deals, Dave Sheinin writes.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Lehigh Valley 2: Jason Botts went 2 for 4 with a home run. Chase Lambin went 1 for 4 with a home run. Jeff Mandel allowed two runs on 10 hits and no walks, striking out seven in seven innings.
Trenton 4, Harrisburg 1: Ross Detwiler allowed three earned runs on five hits and two walks, striking out four in four innings.
Potomac 5, Winston-Salem 2: Evan Bronson allowed two earned runs in seven innings on seven hits and no walks while striking out five. Josh Johnson went 1 for 4 with a home run.
Hagerstown 6, Lakewood 4: Jeff Kobernus went 3 for 5. Destin Hood went 2 for 4 with a double. Justin Bloxom went 2 for 3 with a walk.
Vermont 10, Tri-City 4: David Freitas went 2 for 5 with a double. Bobby Hansen allowed one earned run in five innings on three hits and a walk.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
One GM polled by Buster Olney thought Mike Rizzo is the biggest figurative card player of any GM. An annonymous quote from Olney's GM: "He'll give you the kind of proposals that just end conversations. They're very one-sided."
The Nats finally got some clutch hits, Ben Goessling writes.
Nyjer Morgan wore the Silver Elvis wig and called Johnny Hollidy "Disco."
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