Ivan Rodriguez makes history
For one night, here's what really didn't matter: Ivan Rodriguez was hitting .264 at the start of last night, with a .291 on-base percentage, a .636 OPS and a 71 OPS+. He had grounded into 19 double plays. He had 10 walks and 41 strikeouts. The start of this season, when he was a doubles machine who led the league in hitting, seemed a long time gone.
No, none of that mattered. Rodriguez offered a reminder, as he has done a few times this year, that what we're watching behind the plate for the Nationals is history. Rodriguez hit his 300th home run as a catcher. Only four men had ever done that: Piazza, Fisk, Bench, Berra. First names unnecessary.
Now add Pudge. He rocked a fastball from Rodrigo Lopez over the left field fence in the second inning last night. It wasn't cheap either, about a 400-foot shot. Fans will get to say they saw, teammates will get to say they played with him.
"I don't know how to rank him yet; he's not done yet," Adam Dunn said. "He's one of the top catchers ever to play the game. I feel fortunate."
Rodriguez is not the same caliber of hitter or even kind of hitter he was year ago. At one point in his career - in a different era, one filled with ugly questions across the sport - Rodriguez was a force of nature. In 1999, he hit 35 home runs, slugged .558 and won the American League MVP. In 2000, he may have had an even better season. He hit 27 home runs, drove in 83 runs and punched up a 1.042 OPS - and only played 91 games because of injury. At 38, he is a different hitter altogether.
"Absolutely," Rodriguez said. "They start to pitch you different. You've got to go with what they try to. Basically, I'm an opposite-field hitter. I hit the ball the other way with authority. But I never considered myself as a home run hitter. I consider myself a gap hitter, hit the ball hard. Basically, that's what I've been doing for my whole career."
Rodriguez is 218 hits away from the biggest milestone left out there for him. No player who played his entire career at catcher has pounded 3,000 hits. His pace has slowed, but he remains in impeccable shape - his trainer of 15 years, Edgar, attended the game with his father - and he is determined.
"There are some milestones he's still trying to reach," Manager Jim Riggleman. "There's a couple more big ones not in the immediate future, but there's a couple more there."
He crossed out one of them off Monday night. Rodriguez had not hit a home run since May 16. He realized he had 299, but it did not start to wear on him. He knew it would come. Look at Alex Rodriguez, he reasoned, stuck on 599.
"That's baseball," Rodriguez said. "Hitting a home run is not easy to do. But I'm glad that I hit it. I'm happy about it."
FROM THE POST
The Nationals beat the Diamondbacks, 3-1, behind Livan Hernandez's gem and Sean Burnett's rare, five-out save.
The Orioles introduced Buck Showalter amid their train wreck of a season and it felt different from past hirings, Dave Sheinin writes.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 6, Syracuse 5: Jason Marquis allowed one earned run in six innings on three hits and two walks, striking out four. Wilson Ramos went 2 for 4.
Harrisburg was off.
Potomac 6, Lynchburg 4 (11 innings): Stephen Lombardozzi went 3 for 6 with a double. Bill Rhinehart, just named Carolina League player of the week, went 3 for 5 with two doubles. Joe Testa, acquired in the Matt Capps trade, allowed no earned runs in two innings on two hits and no walks, striking out two.
Lexington 9, Hagerstown 4: J.P. Ramirez went 1 for 3 with a home run and a walk.
Tri-City 10, Vermont 1: Wade Moore went 2 for 3 with a walk.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Sean Burnett got a rare chance in the ninth, Mark Zuckerman writes.
Even before his homer, Ivan Rodriguez believed he had plenty of baseball left, Jesse Sanchez says.
Mel Antonen thinks Adam Dunn could still get traded. (Me, I don't think he'd get through waivers.)
Nationals Baseball has a nice take on the Nats' trade deadline outcome.
August 3, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
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