06/21/09 2:27 PM ET
Pitching, Harris behind recent success
Washington utility player coming up with big defensive plays
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Pitching and defense are the main reasons the Nationals have won back-to-back series against the Yankees and Blue Jays. The starting pitching and bullpen, for example, have a combined 1.31 ERA. And position players such as outfielder Willie Harris have been spectacular with the glove.
"A few things have come together the past few days," said manager Manny Acta. "Obviously, we played very good defense against the Yankees. We went through a long bad period, but now certain things are clicking. Starting pitching has a lot to do with it. You say what you want, but when you have an ERA of 3.00 from your starters for almost a month, that means a lot and it give you more of an opportunity to stay in the game."
Harris is another reason the Nationals have stayed in games. He has made three spectacular catches in as many days. Acta has not ruled out playing Harris more often because of his defense and clutch hitting, but Harris knows what his role is with the team.
"In my heart, I'm an everyday player, but in my contract, I'm a utility guy," Harris said. "So it's not my decision, but whenever I'm out there, I'm going to try to put together a professional at-bat and I'm going to play defense hard. I'm going to do everything the right way. I just want to give to the game."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.