Asdrubal Cabrera making an early impact

Asdrubal Cabrera. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Asdrubal Cabrera. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

brushback_harperSince Asdrubal Cabrera was acquired at the July 31 trade deadline, he has given the Nationals exactly what was needed at second base. Although he has made fewer appearances against left-handed pitching, he has provided offense and slick fielding at a position he hadn’t played every day since 2009. Tuesday night was another example of that.

“That’s what I try to do,” Cabrera said. “They bring me here to help the team and that’s what I try to do. Every game I try to do my best. And help the team to win.”

The switch-hitting infielder drove in three runs with a bases-clearing double in the third inning while making strong plays in the field. In 15 games with the Nationals, he is hitting .263 (15 for 57) with a homer, eight RBI, a .348 on-base percentage and .752 OPS. He had a crucial game-tying hit in Sunday’s wild walk-off win. After eight years in the American League, the 28-year-old has adjusted to the NL just fine.

“I think the game is a little quicker,” he said. “I think that’s the only difference. The pitchers throw more fastball, too, a little. They throw hard, too. They use more their fastball. It’s the same baseball to me.”

And Cabrera and Desmond have quickly formed a formidable double play duo. On Sunday, Cabrera made one of the best defensive plays of the year by starting a double play with a behind-the-back flip to Desmond. On Tuesday, they did it again. Desmond made a stab at a hard-hit ball that took a tough hop in the seventh inning, flipped it to Cabrera and the second baseman smoothly turned the double play with a bullet throw to first.

“He’s a pro,” Manager Matt Williams said. “His time at shortstop I think helps everything. Coming in, he hadn’t played second base in a while, but switch-hitting capabilities, been in situations like this, hitting in the middle of the order of a team, and a contending team, helps everything. So he’s been here, he’s done it, and he understands what he needs to do when he goes up there and hits to the situation. He’s played really well.”

In fact, both of General Manager Mike Rizzo’s recent additions have made an impact. Cabrera has helped shore up second base with his bat and glove. Left-handed reliever Matt Thornton has retired 15 of the 18 batters he has faced, firing 5 1/3 scoreless innings.

“The reputation that [Cabrera] has around the league, what the guys say when they come to second base and what the umpires have to say about him, it’s all great,” Desmond said. “I know me, personally, when I get to establish myself in the league a little more, I want to be known as a professional and that’s what he is. He’s what you strive to be as a ballplayer. That’s just respected and appreciated and we definitely appreciate him here.”

FROM THE POST

Stephen Strasburg goes eight, the offense explodes in 8-1 victory and the Nationals cruise to eighth straight win.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Nate McLouth to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery Thursday

Nationals riding power surges by Wilson Ramos, Adam LaRoche

Asdrubal Cabrera’s headache and Adam LaRoche’s first walk-off

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Scranton/WB 6, Syracuse 5: Omar Poveda gave up three runs, two earned, on five hits over 4 2/3 innings. Sam Runion went 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Rafael Martin’s amazing streak of 27 straight innings without allowing an earned run was snapped when he allowed three runs in 2/3 of an inning. Tyler Moore hit his 10th homer. Greg Dobbs went 3 for 4. In his Syracuse debut, Nate Schierholtz went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts.

Portland 5, Harrisburg 4: Austin Voth returned from the DL and allowed three runs on six hits over three innings. Paul Demny allowed one run over three innings. Jason Martinson went 4 for 4 with four RBI.

Potomac 3, Lynchburg 2 (7): Hector Silvestre allowed one run over four innings. Travis Henke earned the win with 1 2/3 innings and one run. Mike McQuillan drove in two runs with a triple.

Hagerstown 5, Greensboro 0: Reynaldo Lopez fired six scoreless innings and Manny Rodriguez earned the three-inning save. Drew Ward hit his 10th homer and has 69 RBI on the season. Narciso Mesa had three hits.

Auburn was off for the NYP All-Star Game but Mario Sanchez notched one out and Jose Marmolejos-Diaz went 1 for 2.

Also on Nationals Journal

Nate McLouth to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery Thursday