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[June 9th] -- I guess you don't need huge stars to turn around a team after all. Mike O'Connor, a name I hardly knew coming out of Spring Training, has not only plugged a hole in the Nationals' starting rotation, but is thriving, and just might end up becoming a solid number three guy behind Livan and John Patterson. You know the Nationals are playing well when Ramon Ortiz, who has won his last five games, will be bringing up the back of the rotation once John Patterson returns to the team. O'Connor has now started nine games for the Nationals, allowing an amazingly low 36 hits in 50 innings. His only "oops" continues to be his control, walking three more against the Phillies and now has allowed 25 "freebies" for the year. He continues to keep opponents bating around .200 against him, and although he's enjoying RFK's spacious outfield (2.74 ERA), he pitches almost as well (3.24) on the road. Man, he came out of nowhere.

Alfonso Soriano. That's all I need to say. Okay; I'll say more. Have you ever seen a stranger line in a box score in your life? 1-1, 4 runs scored and an RBI. Oh, he stole a base too. Amazing. Alfonso has now homered in twelve straight series, and is only two home runs away from lead leader Albert Pujols.

Now, all of us love to go "inside the numbers," to find an interesting factoid among the minutiae. Well, how about this one. When Soriano plays in games where there is less than 25,000 fans, he's averaged a .264 batting average, .471 slugging average and a home run every 20 at bats. When the stands fill up, between 25,000 - 40,000, his numbers climb to .280 - .498 - one homer every 18 at bats. When it's a capacity crowd, Soriano is at his best: .291 - .522 - one homer every 17 at bats. It would seem that Mr. Soriano has a problem concentrating when he's playing in towns like Kansas City when the stands are mostly empty, but when the stadium is packed and rocking, he's able to bear down and play his best. Interesting? (thanks to ESPN Baseball Tonight)

Does anyone remember the shortstop before Royce Clayton?? The veteran got two more hits last night and raised his batting average to .266. Sure, he still doesn't have a very good on-base percentage (.322 this year, .313 for his career), but the Nationals are 15-5 since Soriano was returned to the leadoff spot and Clayton was moved to the number two hole.

The Nationals have climbed all the way back to five games under .500, a level they haven't been since they were 7-12 in late April. And they've done this without their best pitcher (sorry Livan) and by usually playing two infielders in the outfield. If Jose Guillen can return healthy, and hit like we all know he can for the rest of the season, the Nats could not only stay at the .500 mark, but exceed it. Of course, who knows how many of the veterans will still be calling Washington home come August 1st.

Time will tell. Let's enjoy the run while we can, right?

So far everything has gone right the past 3 weeks. Soriano and Vidro haven't slowed down, the starters are regaining their form, the relief hasn't blown-up (yet) add a healthy Guillen to that mix and this is a GOOD team.

Of course we have to see if that mix holds, but it's fun while it's lasting.
you're right. I've read that some people are concerned that Nick Johnson hasn't hit a homer in the while (he was on pace to hit 38)but I'm not worried; he's not a 38 homer-a-year kind of guy -- he's a 25 homer-a-year guy, and that's where he will end up.
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