08/09/07 9:17 PM ET
Nats win behind Hanrahan's arm, bat
Rookie right-hander smacks key double, earns victory
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
On Thursday afternoon, both players -- Nationals right-hander Joel Hanrahan and shortstop Felipe Lopez -- played key roles in helping the Nationals defeat the Giants, 3-1, and split the four-game series at AT&T Park.
With right-hander Shawn Hill expected to be activated from the disabled list some time next week, Hanrahan recently asked members of the Nationals organization about his future with the team. He realizes that he could be the odd man out and be sent back to Triple-A Columbus. If Hanrahan is sent down, no one can say he was roughed up in the big leagues. It will be strictly a number's game.
"I talked to some people about it. I'm going to try to make it tough on them. I'm aware of the circumstances," Hanrahan said. "If I'm the guy that has to go, I'm going to be the guy. I'm prepared for it if it's going to happen. But, of course, I would like to stay here and finish out the last two months of the season. If I'm the guy, I will understand."
Hanrahan continues to make it difficult for the Nationals, for he had his third consecutive solid outing. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up one run on seven hits and picked up his second Major League victory despite the fact he didn't have good command of his pitches.
"It's not always going to be easy for you. I didn't have my great command today," Hanrahan said. "The offspeed stuff wasn't located very well, but I had some big plays behind me and that helped out a lot."
Hanrahan also helped himself with the bat once again, getting a key double in the fourth inning. Hanrahan is now 3-for-6 for the season and it prompted manager Manny Acta to tell bench coach Pat Corrales, "I already have a pinch-hitter for September."
In fact, it was the right-handed-hitting Hanrahan who helped Washington break the 1-1 tie in the fifth. With left-hander Patrick Misch on the mound, Hanrahan hit a one-out double over Kevin Frandsen's head in left field.
"I like to hit, but I wouldn't consider myself a hitter ... I try to put the ball in play and see what happens. I was fortunate to get the double," Hanrahan said.
Lopez followed and worked the count to 2-1. He was looking for a fastball, but he received a changeup instead, which he hit over the left-field wall for a two-run home run to give Washington the two-run lead. Lopez ended up going 2-for-5 and is hitting .283 during the second half of the season.
"I was just looking for something to drive. I just stayed back and I hit it, "Lopez said.
Acta reminding the media that Lopez is still playing with tendinitis in his right patella (knee). Lopez has been bothered by the problem for at least a week after bumping his knee on a table while playing with his daughters.
"It's not affecting me, the way I run. It's just hurting a little bit," Lopez said.
But the knee injury is nothing compared to what Lopez went through during the first half. He said his head was not clear before the All-Star break because of undisclosed family problems. Whatever it was, it affected his play on the field, and he hit .242 with a .297 on-base percentage. There was even the game early this season in which Acta yanked Lopez out of the game for not hustling. Lopez said that he took care of the family problems during the break.
"I had a lot of stuff in my head during the first half -- some off-the-field stuff. I got it taken care of during the All-Star break and I just wanted to start fresh and it's showing," Lopez said. "I'm just playing baseball -- no worries."
Asked if he should have taken a leave of absence during the first half of the season, Lopez said, "I don't know. It's behind me right now. I just look forward now. I want to have a strong second half and help the team win. I'm being more aggressive."
The aggressiveness from Lopez and Hanrahan gave Washington the victory on Thursday.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.