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Nats' Guillen Provides The Fire

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page D09

PHILADELPHIA, April 6 -- In a Washington Nationals lineup of singles and doubles, he is the booming home run they are going to depend upon; the one who will send a fly ball rising into a warm spring sky at exactly the biggest moment, carrying, carrying until it descends in the right field stands.

On Wednesday night, Jose Guillen stood in the corner of a winning clubhouse, talking about the eighth-inning home run he hit to give his latest new team a victory. He smiled and he said, "I hit it good, I hit it good," in a voice so soft you could barely hear it under the victorious beat that boomed from the locker room speakers.

And he told the story again and again about how he slugged Tim Worrell's cut fastball deep into right field, but not deep enough, he feared. So he ran. He ran fast, racing halfway to second before he saw it drop into the seats.

Then he laughed. It was a very good night. Because this is the Jose Guillen who can make the Nationals better than the most buoyant expectations. Laughing, clapping, winning games.

But then there was also the other Jose Guillen, the one an inning after the home run who snapped when home plate umpire Larry Poncino called him out on a checked swing. This was the Jose Guillen who whipped around, shouted and refused to leave the plate until third base coach Dave Huppert raced down to pull him away, sparing the Nationals' most powerful hitter a sure ejection.

Somehow Washington will have to rectify these two sides: power and fury.

Power got him 27 home runs and 104 RBI with the Anaheim Angels last season. Fury got him driven from his sixth team in six seasons when he threw his batting helmet at Manager Mike Scioscia after being pulled for a pinch runner in the season's waning days.

Perhaps taking him on is a risk. But this is a team that lost 95 games last year. It needs players who can produce like Guillen.

"He can turn the ballgame around with one swing of the bat," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. "He's not going to hit a lot of home runs, but he will hit some big home runs."

Wednesday night's was one of them. In a game Washington appeared to have blown, he delivered the two-run home run that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. The shot seemed to ignite a lineup that has been largely devoid of significant hits. Suddenly the runs exploded from the Nats.

This is the difference Guillen can make.

But what of the other side?

Robinson shrugged when asked about the near-ejection an inning later.

"I don't think he argued too much," Robinson said. "If he had, he'd have been gone."

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