SAN FRANCISCO - Good morning from San Francisco. Busy morning here, so I'm going to get right into it. Here are the awards from the Nationals' 7-3 win over the Giants on Wednesday night.
Josh Willingham: It was another good night for the left fielder, who went 2-for-2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, a run and two RBI. Willingham is hitting .277, but has a .434 on-base percentage. Though he'll have a tough time getting on the NL's roster of outfielders, Willingham is nudging his name into All-Star conversation.
Ian Desmond: He went 2-for-4 with three RBI, knocking in two runs on a flare to right field in the fifth inning. Desmond made a throwing error, but also showed tremendous range on a couple of stops at shortstop. By now, you know you're going to get a few errors with Desmond. You're also going to get impressive athleticism and a surpringly high number of quality at-bats, like we saw on Wednesday.
Adam Kennedy: The second baseman isn't getting completely regular playing time because of Cristian Guzman's hot streak, but he keeps finding ways to contribute when he does. In addition to going 1-for-3 on Wednesday, Kennedy drew two walks, stole two bases, scored two runs and drove in another. He's not particularly fast - Adam Dunn joked on Wednesday night he could beat Kennedy in a race - but Kennedy consistently gets outstanding jumps on pitchers, which is why he's 7-for-7 in stolen-base attempts this year.
Doug Slaten: It's hard to find many things the Nationals did wrong on Wednesday night, and Slaten's mistakes were minor. But he allowed a hit to one of the two batters he faced. It's possible manager Jim Riggleman was going to replace Slaten with Drew Storen anyway, but Slaten did allow an inherited runner to score on Pablo Sandoval's double.
Roger Bernadina: The right fielder went 0-for-4, hitting a short fly ball to left field with Adam Dunn on third in the third inning. The shot was too shallow for Dunn to score, and put the Nationals in a position where they needed Ian Desmond's two-out hit to get a third run home in the inning.
In Case You Missed It:
--Willingham's average this season on balls to left field is .404; it's .375 to center and .143 to right. That's what made his double to right center even more surprising. Lincecum threw him a fastball high and outside, and Willingham went with the pitch, sending it to center fielder Aaron Rowand's left, and driving in a run. "Every once in a while, I'll hit one over there," Willingham said.
--It was a strange night for Adam Dunn; he had a triple and an infield single in the same game. But don't get too excited; Dunn isn't exactly fleet of foot. He did joke, though, that if Andres Torres had turned his triple into the third inside-the-park homer against the Nationals in seven games (and Torres had a chance to do that), he would have tried to score on his in the top of the seventh. At least I think it was a joke.
--Drew Storen froze Torres with a slider to end the seventh inning, but it was hard to tell from watching it if the pitch was a slider or a changeup. "When I got back to the dugout, the guys were like, 'Hey, nice backup slider,'" Storen said. "I said, 'Did I throw a backup slider?' And then I went and watched the film, and said, 'Oh, yeah I did.'" For those unfamiliar with the term, a 'backup' pitch is one that breaks opposite of the direction it was supposed to break; Storen's pitch dropped and tailed a little toward Torres, rather than diving away from him. It's the same thing in bowling; if you're a right-hander and roll a ball that breaks left-to-right, it's called a "Brooklyn" or a "backup ball."
1. What does it mean for the Nationals to beat Lincecum? As I wrote in the game story, it was more a validation of the offense than Luis Atilano for beating him. But even then, Lincecum has been in a bit of a rut lately, so the Nationals didn't catch him at his best. What do you take from the victory?
2. How important was it for Atilano to have a good outing last night? He's been scuffling lately, and many have assumed he'll be the odd man out when Stephen Strasburg arrives. But should he be?
3. Tyler Clippard threw another two innings on Wednesday, and Jim Riggleman said again that he feels Clippard is better with regular work. Is that a recipe for disaster, with Clippard on pace to throw over 100 innings, or are you OK with the workload, considering the results?
Leave your answers to the Talking Points questions in the comments, as usual. Headed to the park in a few minutes, and I'll have plenty more from there.