Hairston example of bench importance to Nats’ run

Nationals third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. had just one hit in 23 at-bats to start the season before breaking out with a 3-for-3 performance in Game Two of Washington’s 5-1 doubleheader sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Hairston got the offense going for the Nationals with a solo home run against Brewers right hander and former Nationals pitcher Marco Estrada. His round-tripper, only the 60th of his career, came in the middle of four consecutive strikeouts by the Milwaukee starter and lifted the Nationals to an early 1-0 advantage.

Debbi Taylor interviews Jerry Hairston Jr. about his three-hit game in the Nats’ 5-1 win

“It is just one of those things where obviously I am not trying to hit a home run,” Hairston said. “I just want to have good at-bats. I don’t have very many home runs. I just want to put good swings on the ball and I was able to do that.

“I am not a huge average numbers (guy), especially on April 17. If you just have good at-bats, then over the course of the season, everything will work out.”

Hairston’s batting average jumped 111 points from Game One to the end of Game Two thanks to his near perfect performance at the plate. Hairston finished a triple short of the hitting for the cycle, walking in his last plate appearance in the eighth frame. He finished with three hits and two runs.

The veteran is a great example of how bench and utility players have come up big for the Nationals early on this season. Laynce Nix hit a big homer in New York last week to win a game. Alex Cora started at third in Game One and contributed a single that turned into a run.

Not only was Hairston’s solid defense a key to the doubleheader sweep, but his offense was a welcome addition to how good the starting pitching has been to begin the season.

“We have been playing pretty good baseball and we haven’t hit as a team,” Hairston said. “We feel we are a pretty good ball club. For us to stay in games is a credit to our pitching staff and our defense. We feel we have guys with good track records swinging the bats. We just have to stay after it and we have been doing that.”

The Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said having a veteran player like Hairston who comes in and excels off the bench makes a big difference for a team fighting to change its standing in the eastern division.

“I have seen him plenty playing against him,” LaRoche remembers. “He is a guy that will go out there any time you ask him to. He is not going to complain about anything. If his name is on the lineup he is going to lay it out there. He got some big hits for us today and made some plays. With (Ryan Zimmerman) down, it is nice to have a couple guys over there who can play as solid as they do.”

Riggleman said Hairston’s break out day reminded him of how things started for him in March.

“As of late he has been hitting some balls well, the way he did in spring training,” Riggleman recalled. “He really swung the bat well in spring training. This is what we saw that first ten days. He was putting the barrel on it really consistently. Jerry is just a good player. He is not a one dimensional guy. He can do a lot of things. He is a ball player.”

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