Two recent pickups playing a major factor

The Nationals have now won six games in a row, their longest winning streak of the season.

Oh, and they’re now 16 games over .500, also a season best.

Oh, and they have the best record in the National League.

Oh, and they now have four games against a Diamondbacks team that is currently 18 games under .500.

Things are looking up in the nation’s capital.

There’s plenty to talk about with this team right now, from another comeback win last night to Jayson Werth’s attempts to get past a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder to Rafael Soriano’s recent struggles.

But I’m going to choose a different topic this morning. I’m choosing to look back at two acquisitions the Nats have made within the last few weeks, and how significant those pickups have proven to be thus far.

cabrera-white-second-base-throw-sidebar.jpgThe Nationals traded for Asdrubal Cabrera hours before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31, and since then, they’ve slotted the veteran middle infielder in as their starting second baseman most days. The 28-year-old has certainly not disappointed in his 13 games played in a Nats uniform, flashing the leather and delivering multiple clutch hits.

Cabrera has made a couple ridiculous plays with the glove, including his grab down the right field line in New York that saw him tumble over the short fence and his nifty behind-the-back start to a 4-6-3 double play in the eighth inning last night.

He might not have quite the range or arm strength as Danny Espinosa at second, but Cabrera has been terrific there, making the routine plays and showing that he can dazzle with the mitt, as well.

Offensively, Cabrera has hit .260 with the Nats, but has a .345 on-base percentage and is slugging .400. His solo homer against the Mets on Wednesday turned out to be the game-winning run, and he knotted the game in the bottom of the ninth last night with an RBI single.

Then there’s Matt Thornton, who was acquired via a waiver claim from the Yankees on Aug. 5 and has become a valuable member of Matt Williams’ bullpen in a very short time.

Thornton has appeared in five games with the Nats, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings. The hard-throwing lefty has retired 12 of the 15 batters he’s faced, has yet to walk a batter and has struck out three.

Not only do the numbers look great, but Thornton has gotten the ball in crucial, high-leverage situations and come up big. Two Saturdays ago in Atlanta, Thornton came into a tie game in the bottom of the eighth and worked a clean frame. Two nights ago, Thornton got the ball in the top of the ninth against the Pirates, retired all three batters he faced and earned his first win since August 3, 2012. Last night, Thornton was called upon in the top of the ninth with the Pirates up one and worked out of a jam, preventing Pittsburgh from adding any insurance runs and keeping the Nats within striking distance.

Thornton’s high-90s heat has made him a tough matchup for both left- and right-handed hitters, and it makes you wonder why the Yankees were so willing to let the veteran southpaw head to D.C. on a straight waiver claim.

The Nats thought they had a plenty talented roster in the days leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, but general manager Mike Rizzo went out and added Cabrera and Thornton anyway, to bolster the squad that he had in place. Both pickups have proven to be big so far, and Cabrera and Thornton look like they’ll play a major role down the stretch.

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