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From Morgan on Down, Lineup Brings Results

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 10, 2009

For a time, it appeared the contagiousness of quality hitting was limited to the 3-4-5 spots in the Washington Nationals' lineup. Those batters -- Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham -- fed off each other's power and efficiency. The rest of the order often struggled to keep up.

But since acquiring Nyjer Morgan in a June 30 trade with Pittsburgh, players said the transitive effect of offensive production has grown more potent. In addition to playing stellar defense in center field, Morgan also has assumed the leadoff position in Washington's lineup and the results over the past month have been promising.

"We've never had a center field-leadoff hitter guy like him," Zimmerman said. "He's been unbelievable since he got here. I think he knows exactly what his role is: to get on base however he can. And then once he gets on base, he can do whatever he wants."

On Sunday, Morgan went 2 for 4 with two runs, two stolen bases, a walk and an RBI. He has batted .362 with 18 stolen bases and 27 runs since arriving in the District. But more important than his statistics is the impact his offensive production has had on the rest of the lineup.

Shortstop Cristian Guzmán, the No. 2 hitter, owns a 15-game hitting streak after going 2 for 4 in the series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Right fielder Elijah Dukes, who bats sixth, has driven in 10 runs in the past three games.

Boston May Seek Guzmán

The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the Red Sox had placed a waiver claim on Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzmán.

If awarded the claim, the Red Sox would have 48 hours to arrange a deal with the Nationals. Washington could choose to pull him back off waivers. Boston must have the worst record of any team that places a claim on Guzmán in order to be awarded the claim, and every team in the National League would have to pass on Guzmán before an American League squad would have a chance.

Guzmán will earn $8 million next season, which likely will prohibit many teams from placing a claim on the shortstop. Washington could elect simply to award him to a team in order to shed his contract. Washington team officials did not respond to requests for comment Sunday night.

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