Nats' Logan Takes a Star Turn

Austin Kearns scores the game-tying run, with Ronnie Belliard right behind him in Sunday's 4-3 Washington win.
Austin Kearns scores the game-tying run, with Ronnie Belliard right behind him in Sunday's 4-3 Washington win. (Manuel Balce Ceneta - AP)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 21, 2007

Nook Logan made a very bad mistake two nights before, but he knew, eventually, the chance would come to erase it. "Baseball gives you that opportunity," Washington Manager Manny Acta said.

When Logan stood at the plate yesterday, that opportunity had arrived -- bases loaded, down by one, two outs, eighth inning. But it also seemed the moment would only tease him: His right shoulder ached, he had failed in his previous seven tries to hit with the bases loaded, the count was 0-2.

But these Nationals, it seems, are resilient, whether it means plowing through the schedule with a ravaged pitching rotation, scrapping for runs with the worst offense in baseball or, in Logan's case, driving in the runs that would beat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3, with a bum front shoulder.

Logan atoned for his base-running gaffe from Friday night with an epic at-bat, which he concluded by slapping a go-ahead, two-run single off the embattled Danys Baez through the right side. The hit averted a Baltimore Orioles three-game sweep and allowed the Nationals to conclude a 7-3 homestand, continuing their improbable surge toward mediocrity with a makeshift staff and a no-name lineup.

"Terrific," Acta said. "Regardless of what we're going through right now with our pitching staff, even if we had five Cy Young-caliber pitchers, 7-3 is a terrific homestand, no matter who you are, or whether you're the Nationals or somebody else."

The Orioles may have still won the series, but they left RFK Stadium with a bitter taste. They led, 3-1, entering the eighth, rolling behind Erik Bedard. They had squandered several opportunities, but it didn't matter, the way Bedard dominated. He struck out 12 through seven innings. He surrendered three hits and got two himself, the first of his career.

But after his 98th pitch ended the seventh inning, Bedard chatted with Manager Sam Perlozzo. "He said he was done," Perlozzo said. Bedard's legs had worn first, in part because he had run the bases for the first time in his career.

When Paul Bako hit a two-out triple in the eighth and the ninth-place batter was due, Corey Patterson strode from the on-deck circle to pinch-hit. Even if Bako hadn't reached, "that was it," Bedard said.

"Sometimes it goes against what you're trying to do," Bedard said. "If you're tired and you go out there, bad things might happen. I was tired. I had to come out and leave it to the bullpen."

Said Ryan Langerhans, "Sometimes, that's the biggest thing, when you get that starter out of there and get to a fresh guy."

The guy was Chad Bradford, who got one out but then allowed Ryan Zimmerman to pummel a double to center. Langerhans came up next, and Perlozzo wanted Bradford out of the game. He could have gone to lefty Jamie Walker to pitch to Langerhans, but that would have only prompted Acta to summon Tony Batista to pinch-hit. Since Langerhans was hitting .123, Perlozzo did not want to chase him from the batter's box.

So Perlozzo chose Baez. He had struggled in three of his last four outings, and he melted down again. Langerhans grounded the first pitch through the right side, driving in Zimmerman. Baez then hit Austin Kearns on a 1-2 pitch. Ronnie Belliard blooped a single behind second, loading the bases for Jesus Flores, who couldn't bring in Langerhans.

Up came Logan. In the on-deck circle, he considered bunting for a hit. When Baez started him with two strikes, that option was eliminated. Instead, Logan grinded through the following sequence: foul; ball low; ball in; foul; ball in. The count full, the crowd roared, as if oblivious to the current state of the teams on the field.

Finally, on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Logan poked a grounder through the right side, scoring Kearns and Belliard.

"I knew he couldn't go too much of his breaking stuff," Logan said, an ice pack wrapped around his shoulder. "If the ball gets away, we tie the game up without a hit. That made my job a little easier."

While Logan celebrated, Baez faced uncomfortable questions. Again. His overall ERA is now 6.10; for May, it's 10.00. Through the slump, he has been leaving fastballs up. Yesterday, Bako told Perlozzo his movement and velocity were off.

Baez, though, remained "100 percent" confident. He is healthy, he said, and yesterday there was little he could do. "Ground balls and bloopers," Baez said. "When you're not lucky, you're not lucky."

Baez's misfortune gave the Nationals another victory and may have allowed them to recapture momentum. Washington lost eight straight before the homestand and was teetering toward a historically bad season. The past 10 games changed that, the latest win delivered by perhaps the player who needed it most.

"It was a total team effort," Logan said. "I was just in the middle of it."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company