Acta Shifts Lineup to Spark Offense

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2007

PITTSBURGH, June 29 -- In desperate need of reviving the National League's most moribund offense, Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta moved shortstop Felipe Lopez -- who began the year as the team's leadoff man and had been hitting second -- to the seventh spot in the lineup. Ronnie Belliard, one of only two Nationals who entered Friday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates hitting better than .264, moved up to second.

"Basically, we're trying to create something, some way to improve the offense here," Acta said.

The Nationals entered play Friday having scored the fewest runs in baseball, an average of 3.77 a game. The results have been particularly poor over a 12-game stretch beginning May 15, during which the Nationals have averaged 2.92 runs a game. They rank last in the National League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs.

Lopez isn't the only struggling member of the lineup, but his problems have been particularly acute. In 21 games since May 31, he is hitting .184 with a .237 on-base percentage, dropping his season numbers to .238 and .287, respectively.

Lopez said he isn't happy about the move lower in the order.

"I don't like it," he said, "but what can I do." He did, however, guarantee that his numbers would improve.

"I'm not a .230 hitter, that's for sure," said Lopez, who entered the season as a career .262 hitter. "At the end of the year, it's not going to be .230, .250 or .260. I promise."

Right, Left, Right

A miscommunication between Acta, the Nationals' staff and the media created the impression that right-hander Jason Simontacchi would be Saturday's starter. Rather, it will be right-hander Jason Bergmann, who will pitch on his normal four days' rest. Simontacchi was pushed back to Monday against the Chicago Cubs at RFK Stadium, a move made to ensure the Nationals don't have lefties Mike Bacsik, Micah Bowie and Matt Chico going consecutively.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company