Opponents Get a Bargain: Extra Bases

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 14, 2006

ATLANTA, May 13 -- It used to be that opposing runners didn't even try to steal against the Washington Nationals. Not so this year. In the last four games, the Nationals' opponents have not only attempted 16 steals, they have been successful on every one of them.

The problem isn't about to get better. Catcher Brian Schneider, who led the National League in throwing out runners each of the last three years, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a tight left hamstring. The move is retroactive to Thursday.

"We have to get Brian right," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "We can't risk him getting really hurt."

Schneider, who was off to a slow start offensively, hitting .230, said he was surprised by the move. He has never been on the disabled list in his career.

"I get paid for playing baseball," he said. "I don't get paid for being on the DL."

Catcher-first baseman Robert Fick, who hasn't played in the majors since undergoing elbow surgery on March 6, was recalled from Class AAA New Orleans before Saturday's game against the Atlanta Braves. The Nationals are expected to recall another catcher -- likely Wiki Gonzalez -- on Sunday because they don't want to leave Fick and Matthew LeCroy as the only catchers.

Manager Frank Robinson and pitching coach Randy St. Claire, though, blame the pitching staff. "We take all day to unload the ball," Robinson said.

St. Claire is upset his pitchers don't hold runners better. "It's something they all can do," he said. "They're just not doing it. It has to be a lack of focus, a lack of concentration. It's very frustrating."

Even average runners are starting to steal on the Nationals. Atlanta's Chipper Jones and Marcus Giles each stole bases Friday night, just their second and third of the year, respectively.

Church Dusts Off Some Rust

Outfielder Ryan Church got his first start of the road trip Saturday night and went 1 for 3 with two walks. Church typically struggles when he doesn't play regularly, and he has even worried he will be sent to the minors. "You know your timing's going to be off," Church said.

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