Nationals outfielder Brad Wilkerson doesn't enjoy days off, but considering the way he is hitting, he wasn't surprised to walk into the visitors' clubhouse Sunday morning at Shea Stadium and find Ryan Church penciled into Wilkerson's place.
"I kind of figured it was coming," Wilkerson said following the 7-4 victory over the New York Mets. "I've been struggling so bad, I feel like I needed a day off."
Wilkerson is in the midst of a 1-for-21 slump that dropped his average to .246, his lowest since Opening Day, when he went 1 for 5. In his four full major league seasons, Wilkerson's lowest average came last year, when he hit .255. But he offset that with 32 home runs and an on-base percentage of .374, drawing 106 walks, and was generally considered a catalyst for the offense.
Wilkerson is miscast in the leadoff spot, but he hit there regularly last season and had success. His current on-base percentage of .347 and slugging percentage of .405 would each be the lowest of his career. He hit .323 in April, and hasn't hit higher than .242 in any month since. Now, he's spending hours going over video of his at-bats, trying to figure out what's wrong.
"I'm just pulling off the ball," he said. "My hips are flying open. I'm staying back and getting in good position, but I'm just coming off the ball too soon. I've got to find some way to close up my front side."
Wilkerson has played through a series of injuries this season, most significantly a problem with his right forearm that, at its worst, prevented him from driving the ball. But he said the forearm feels better.
"I think it's more mental than anything," he said of his struggles.
Griffey Gets Offensive
The Cincinnati Reds, who make their first visit to Washington for a three-game series beginning tonight, swept the Nationals in May.
"I tell you one thing: They've got some hitters on that ballclub you have to respect," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said.
One is outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who has hit .500 (16 for 32) with four homers in a current eight-game hitting streak, raising his average to .295. Should it hold there, it would be Griffey's highest since he hit .304 with Seattle in 1997.
The Reds, who were 16 games under .500 when manager Dave Miley was fired in June, are 30-24 under interim manager Jerry Narron.
A Little Extra
Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman had two doubles Sunday, just the second time he has collected more than one extra-base hit this year. The other was June 20 at Pittsburgh, when he doubled and tripled.
Guzman is hitting .194, and is trying to avoid the fate of another Washington shortstop; Eddie Brinkman hit .185 for the Senators in 1965.