06/21/08 1:37 AM ET
Dukes delivers Nats' walk-off win
Outfielder's homer ties it in eigth, single wins it in 14th
By Zach Osterman / MLB.com
Dukes had a career-high five hits, including a game-tying home run in the eighth and a game-winning, bases-loaded single in the 14th to lead the Nationals to a 4-3 victory over the Rangers. The single in the 14th was Dukes' second walk-off hit of the year and the third time he's been involved in a walk-off this year.
"I was just trying to drive the ball, basically," Dukes said of an offensive performance that saw him go 5-for-6 for the night. "That's what I've been trying to do ... just try not to press for the home runs, just let it come."
After the game, Rangers starter Kevin Millwood was full of praise for Elijah Dukes. Millwood said he considered Dukes the key player in the Nationals' victory.
"If it wasn't for Elijah Dukes, this would have been a pretty easy game for us," Millwood said. "I couldn't get him out, and nobody else could either."
Dukes' own manager, Manny Acta, commended his young right fielder after the game as well.
"He was a one-man show," Acta said. "He showed his abilities on defense and swinging the bat."
Rangers pitcher Jamey Wright (4-3) loaded the bases on three walks after striking out the leadoff man in the inning. After Cristian Guzman struck out, Dukes stepped in and did the rest, lacing Wright's first offering -- a fastball, Dukes confirmed after the game -- into left field. Joel Hanrahan (3-2) picked up the win in relief.
Dukes' stellar night was the latest big offensive performance for the right fielder, who's seen his average jump from .148 all the way to .270 in a span of just 17 games. In his last 24 games, Dukes is hitting .344 with two home runs, 13 RBIs and 15 walks.
Dukes attributed his offensive surge to hard work in the cages, confidence in his abilities and his move from eighth in the lineup to second, where he sees better pitches.
"I'm in front of all the guys that are hitting, basically," Dukes said after the game. "When you're up in the two-hole, you get more fastballs to hit. I got going in the two-hole, now I'm seeing the ball really well."
The Rangers got on the board early with three runs in the second inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Ian Kinsler drove a double to right-center field that plated all three baserunners.
The Nationals got two runs back in the bottom of the third with a little bases-loaded fun of their own. After a walk to Dmitri Young left Nationals at every base, Jesus Flores lined a single into right field that scored Lastings Milledge and Dukes to bring the score to 3-2.
Conversely, Redding settled down for the Nationals, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced after the three-run double. He left after six innings, having struck out five.
Acta revealed after the game that Redding came into the clubhouse Friday with a sour stomach, and that the right-hander was battling through illness for most of the game.
"He gave us six innings," Acta said of Redding, "which was tremendous for a guy that was sick."
Redding said he started feeling bad about half an hour before he came to the park. He said he got treatment immediately, and just tried to stay hydrated the rest of the way.
The Nationals bullpen kept things quiet after Redding made way in the seventh. Five Washington relievers shut down Texas, pitching four straight perfect innings at one point and shutting out the Rangers the rest of the way.
So strong was the collective pitching performance for Washington, Redding and the bullpen combined to put down 21 straight batters at one point. After Texas' three-run second, only four Rangers reached base the rest of the way.
Redding gave credit to his bullpen after the game, applauding an effort which saw five relievers total eight innings and allow just one hit and one walk and striking out three.
"That's the reason we ended up winning the game," Redding said. "Our bullpen guys came in and held the job, throwing eight scoreless innings, giving up one hit. Those guys keep doing that for the rest of the year ... we're gonna be fine."
Hanrahan said after the game that he thought he and his teammates in the bullpen might have had something to prove after a tough series in Minnesota. He said they wanted to show that they were capable of shutting anyone down, even the third-best offense in the Majors.
"The win should go to the whole bullpen," Hanrahan said. "It's big for us after that Minnesota series, where they're showing on ESPN that we had a 12.00 ERA, but we all know we're better than that."
Zach Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.