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Chad Tracy and Danny Espinosa have swung hot bats the last two days.
Well, Davey Johnson, for one.
The Nationals manager has been insisting all week those three hitters were due to get on track, which explains in part why all three have been in the lineup the last two days.
They all made Johnson's decision pay off.
Tracy, subbing for injured first baseman Adam LaRoche, is 5-for-9 with two homers so far in this series against the Phillies. The 31-year-old raised his batting average from a scant .120 to a more respectable .235 in the course of 24 hours.
How does Tracy explain his sudden surge? Simple: He's finally getting regular at-bats instead of coming off the bench cold once every night.
"Hitting is one of those things you need to do every day to get good at," he said. "Coming off the bench for one [at-bat] and then coming back a couple days later, it's tough. But that's where I'm at. I try to do my best at both jobs. Now being able to string a few at-bats together, I think it's more your eyes than anything. You get to see the ball, and once you've found it, you try to hold onto it."
Only two days ago, Espinosa was openly discussing his fear of getting demoted to the minors after a weak start to the season. But he also vowed at the time to get back to his traditional approach at the plate, trying to work the count and not be overly aggressive. So far, so good, because Espinosa has reached base in four of eight plate appearances this series.
Nobody in the Nationals' lineup has been hotter than Ankiel, who went 3-for-4 with a walk Friday night and then followed that up with another 3-for-4 performance during Saturday's win. Just like that, the veteran center fielder has raised his average from .234 to .309.
"As they call them over there, the Goon Squad is really doing good," Johnson said, referring to the nickname the Nationals bench developed for itself. "Tracy continues, and Ankiel's swinging the heck out of it like I knew he probably would."
Which leaves Johnson with a potential quandary entering tonight's series finale. With left-hander Cole Hamels on the mound, an opposing manager typically would want to stack his lineup with right-handed hitters. Instead, Johnson is going to stick with his left-handed-heavy lineup of the last two days.
Why? Both because several of those left-handed hitters are hot (Tracy, Ankiel) and because Hamels has an unusual penchant for performing better against right-handed hitters. So far this season, right-handed hitters are batting .186 against the Phillies hurler. Left-handed hitter are batting a healthy .310.
Because of that, Johnson plans an unconventional lineup tonight.
"We've got a tough pitcher tomorrow, and we'll probably go with that same lineup," he said. "The heck with it."
So don't be surprised when you see Johnson's starting nine posted before tonight's game and see three pure left-handed hitters in the lineup: Ankiel, Tracy and Bryce Harper.