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Peña's Hollywood Homer Not Enough for Nationals

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2007; 2:07 AM

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27 -- Wily Mo Peña limped around the bases, the ball long since deposited over the fence in left, and few at Dodger Stadium could help but think of Kirk Gibson. Yes, it's August. No, he didn't win the game. But dream a bit.

Peña, the Washington Nationals' newest experiment, crushed a home run off Los Angeles Dodgers starter Derek Lowe Monday night, a two-run blast that gave the Nationals a lead in what ultimately -- because of a shaky outing from starter Mike Bacsik -- became a 5-4 loss. That he did it on what was, apparently, a very sore left foot made for a Hollywood moment just on the outskirts of Hollywood.

So put aside the fact that the Nationals have now lost four games in a row and that they are threatening to finish this 10-game road trip poorly. There was one indelible image Monday, and it wasn't the Nationals' other two homers -- one from Dmitri Young, one from Ryan Zimmerman.

"That Kirk Gibson thing," Bacsik said. "Rounding the bases."

Peña's fourth homer in his week-and-a-half stint with the Nationals meant the comparisons to Gibson were too obvious to overlook. Never mind that this is not October, the Nationals aren't in any sort of pennant race, the Dodgers are clawing to remain relevant and Peña had never heard of the moment.

"They told me it was in the World Series," he said afterward.

When Peña hobbled down the first base line, then made the turn, it was a wonder he didn't pump his fist twice as he rounded second, mimicking the all-but-crippled Gibson, who beat Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley with a shocking homer in the 1988 World Series.

Though Peña's homer wasn't nearly as dramatic -- or, for that matter, important -- it was yet another glimpse of his raw power. Peña arrived here in an Aug. 17 trade from Boston, and the Nationals knew two things about him: He will strike out at a high rate, but he can hit balls to spots where people never find them again. This homer, hit on a bum wheel, was a no-doubter, and it put the Nationals up 3-2. In 10 games with the Nationals, Peña is slugging .647.

Two pitches before the home run, Peña fouled a sinker from Lowe off the instep of his left foot. After taking a ball, he called time and both head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz and Manager Manny Acta came out for a visit.

"It hurt," Peña said, but he stayed in the game. The next pitch he saw was another sinker. He took a ferocious cut and sent it far enough away that all Pena had to do was try to jog.

"As soon as I hit it, I tried to put my foot down," he said. "I could put no pressure on my foot. That's why I had to start jumping. I could not put my 265 weight on there."

Though Peña eventually made it around the bases and touched home, he used the dugout railings to lift himself down the steps. He did not return to the field, replaced by Ryan Church in the bottom of the inning. X-rays taken of his left foot were negative, and he is officially listed as day-to-day.

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