By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Last night, Brian Schneider crouched down behind the plate for the 75th game this season, a regular workaday man for the Washington Nationals. Schneider is on pace to catch in 132 games this season, approaching his career high of 133 set in 2004. And as the second half of the season gets in a rhythm, he is in the position to shake off a foul tip off his knee two days ago and return to play again.
"The only time I ever tell [Manager Manny Acta] or the trainers that I can't go is if I feel like I'm harming the team in any way," Schneider said. "If my shoulder hurts and I don't feel like I can throw a guy out at second base, I'm not going to go out there just to be Mr. Tough Guy."
Still, that's what Acta calls him -- a "tough hombre," he said yesterday. After the second of two passed balls charged to him in Saturday's loss to Florida was changed to a wild pitch on lefty Matt Chico, Schneider is right in the middle of the statistical defensive leaders at catcher this season. No player who has caught as many games as Schneider has as few passed balls (three), and his percentage of throwing out would-be base stealers (31 percent) was fourth in the National League, sixth in baseball.
"He's tough, man," Acta said. "He's taken a beating back there."
The one problem: Offense. Schneider, who went 0 for 3 last night against the Houston Astros, is 3 for 33 dating from June 27, dropping his average from .251 to .231.Rivera Makes a Big Contribution
Though he began the season with Class AAA Columbus, reliever Saul Rivera made his 48th appearance last night and trails only teammate Jon Rauch for the National League lead in games pitched. His contribution to last night's 4-3 victory over the Astros: 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. He got the win, improving his record to 4-2, lowering his ERA to 3.52.
"He's fearless," Acta said, "and the ball moves all over the place." . . .
Outfielder Alex Escobar, on the disabled list all season, is struggling at Columbus, going 1 for 15 over his first four games.