Pregame Nationals notes (Ankiel, offense)

The tarp is currently covering the infield at Nationals Park as a steady rain falls over the field. There are a couple of passing storms in the forecast, but we should be able to play tonight’s game between the Nationals and Cardinals.

Just a couple pregame notes from manager Jim Riggleman’s press conference today:

* Rick Ankiel is still out of the lineup, and the Nationals aren’t yet sure how long he might be out. He strained his left intercostal muscles making a catch on Tuesday night, but Riggleman said he probably didn’t hurt it as badly as some players who have sustained that injury because he came out of the game before he had an at-bat. “He did the smart thing getting out of the game as quick as he did so he didn’t swing a bat,” Riggleman said. “Hopefully that precaution there will nix this thing before it becomes a problem.” Still, though, injuries to the core are hard to return from quickly. Roger Bernadina is batting second again tonight, facing right-hander Kyle Lohse. He’ll hit there against righties and bat ninth against lefties.

* Riggleman again praised the Nationals’ offense, saying he felt like the team had been stringing together good at-bats well before its 18-run breakout in its first two games with Ryan Zimmerman back. Asked to elaborate on his definition of a good at-bat, Riggleman responded with something of a thesis on his approach to hitting:

“A good at-bat could be taking advantage of the first pitch - a ball right there, a good fastball strike to hit and jumping on it, or maybe looking for a breaking ball, getting it, hitting it, don’t miss it. It’s almost like, just don’t have a bad at-bat. Don’t swing at a first-pitch breaking ball in the dirt for no reason. Men in scoring position, swing at a bad pitch, get yourself in a bad count, that could be classified as a bad at-bat. Swing at a ball out of the zone and pop up, you’re not going to be satisfied with that at-bat. I don’t scrutinize it as closely as what they should or should not be swinging at, because they put all the work into that. They don’t miss any information. They get all the information and try to apply it, and they’re doing everything they can to try to get a hit in those situations. Lately, we’ve been getting them. I can’t control that. But I feel like the coaching staff and myself can control how we play by emphasizing, ‘Let’s play good baseball. Let’s pitch. Let’s play good defense. Let’s run the bases correctly. Let’s hit the cutoff man.’ Those are the types of things I’m really proud of this ballclub for doing, because they’ve been outstanding in those areas.”

Most baseball people would say a manager can only do so much to influence a team’s final record, and the best thing the manager can do is ensure his team plays hard and minimizes mistakes. I’d say Riggleman, by and large, agrees with that. I thought the quote was interesting, so I’m passing it along here.