The downside to the Washington Nationals' just-completed six-game road trip was obvious, for they lost the final two games to the San Diego Padres in gruesome fashion, blowing two late leads. In doing so, they fell well behind the Houston Astros in the race for the National League's wild-card playoff berth.
But even during those two games, the offensive resurgence of shortstop Cristian Guzman, which began at the beginning of September, continued.
When August came to a close, Guzman remained in danger of posting a historically bad offensive season, hitting .196 with an on-base percentage of .236 and a slugging percentage of .279. Not since Rob Deer hit .179 for the Detroit Tigers in 1991 had a player endured an entire major league season and hit below .200.
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, Guzman may be ready to avoid that fate. Since Sept. 1, he has hit .326 -- by far his highest batting average in a month. And this is more than just a few hits falling that had been caught before. Guzman is driving the ball like he hasn't all season. He drove in three runs with a double and a triple in Friday night's win over San Diego, the first game in which he had three RBI since Aug. 21, 2004, when he was with Minnesota. His slugging percentage in September is a robust .558 -- highest on the team -- and his seven RBI in 14 games this month match his high for any month this year.
"He's hitting the fastball," hitting coach Tom McCraw said. "It's nothing we haven't talked about before. He's doing the things we've wanted him to do. He's finally brought them into a game."
Guzman's average for the season is now at .209, the highest it has been since June 21.
Robinson: Pitch to Bonds
Manager Frank Robinson has a simple strategy for dealing with San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who comes to RFK Stadium tonight with the Giants. "Go after him," Robinson said. "Make your pitches and go get him out."
Robinson considers the strategy some managers take -- walking Bonds, even if the bases are empty -- to be "ridiculous." In 13 games against the Robinson-managed Montreal Expos from 2002 to '04, Bonds hit five homers, drove in eight runs, walked 17 times and hit .306.
"We haven't completely shut him down," Robinson said. "But we contained him."