Kearns Is Back in The Swing

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 24, 2007

CINCINNATI, May 23 -- Austin Kearns's return to Cincinnati was supposed to be a time to reminisce a bit, not to mention to take some cuts in a good hitter's ballpark. But the Washington Nationals right fielder now finds himself in a slump that has his average spiraling downward.

Kearns entered Wednesday night's 12-7 victory at Great American Ball Park just 2 for his last 29 (.069), a week-long span that dropped his average from .271 to .237. He steadied himself with a 2-for-4 performance.

"I didn't know it was that bad," Kearns said. "I think that might be because winning takes care of a lot of things. I know I've obviously been struggling, but when you're winning, whether you're going good or bad, you're always in a better mood."

Kearns has played in all 47 of the Nationals' games, starting 46 of them. Manager Manny Acta said, however, that he is not yet seriously considering giving Kearns a day off to clear his head, though he replaced him in the seventh inning Wednesday.

"I prefer to keep him out there because he's one of those guys that I really enjoy watching because he gives you 110 percent every day running the bases and everything," Acta said, "and he doesn't act like he needs a day off."

Kearns, who said he feels comfortable at the plate, said he'd rather stay in the lineup.

"My manager in [Class] A ball told me the only way you're going to learn and keep getting better is to play every day," Kearns said. "I like that. That's the only way you get out of it."

I Got It! You Got It?

After Kearns and center fielder Nook Logan allowed a ball hit between them to fall for a crucial double Monday night, the pair had another miscommunication in the first inning of Tuesday's game. This time, though, Kearns stepped in and caught the ball. Acta said he preferred that approach.

"I'd rather see two guys colliding trying to catch the ball than two guys looking at each other and the ball dropping," Acta said.

Asked if he thought about the violent collision between Kearns and first baseman Nick Johnson last September, Logan said, "Afterwards, you do."

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