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The lineup the Nationals trotted out on Tuesday night against the Braves wasn't so much a calculated strategy as it was the next thing to try. They'd put Nyjer Morgan in the No. 2 hole, moved Cristian Guzman into the leadoff spot, given Roger Bernadina a chance in the second spot and even put Ivan Rodriguez there. None of it had worked, at least long enough to keep Jim Riggleman from moving parts around the lineup like it was a Rubik's cube.
Tuesday's configuration against the Atlanta Braves might not be a permanent answer, either. But for one night, when the Nationals badly needed a win, it worked.
Batting Bernadina in the No. 2 hole, dropping Guzman to the seventh spot and giving Alberto Gonzalez a start at second base, the Nationals broke out for seven runs, 11 hits and a much-needed 7-2 win over the Braves. It snapped a five-game losing streak and gave the Nationals a chance to win the series with the Braves a day after a crushing 5-0 loss with Stephen Strasburg on the mound.
Johnny and Ray interview Jim Riggleman after the Nats' 7-2 win over Atlanta
At almost every turn, Riggleman's moves worked. Morgan had a night off from his struggles in the leadoff spot, going 2-for-5 and stealing his 17th base of the year. Bernadina got on base in two of his five plate appearances, also stealing a base and scoring on Josh Willingham's seventh-inning homer.
The normally free-swinging Guzman worked two walks in the seventh hole, though one of them was intentional, and scored two runs. And Gonzalez, who has shined as a utility player this year, went 4-for-4 in the No. 8 hole, scoring a run and driving in another.
Considering the Nationals beat Derek Lowe, got a resurgent performance from the recently-recalled Craig Stammen (two runs in 7 1/3 innings after a season of struggling on the road) and won by five runs or more for just the sixth time this year, this was one of the best wins the team has had in the last two months. Now the question becomes: Can they use the same lineup on future days?
The key to that, in my mind, is Guzman; if he is comfortable in the seventh spot, it allows the Nationals to put a better OBP guy in the second spot in Bernadina. If the Nationals want Bernadina hitting sixth to drive in runs, it makes the lineup a little thinner in the middle. But he could conceivably get better pitches hitting in front of Ryan Zimmerman, and can use his speed to score runs.
Guzman, historically, hasn't been comfortable hitting that low in the lineup, though with his high average and low OBP, he's probably better-suited to hit seventh than second. The Nationals would need him to buy into that to use this lineup in the future, and it isn't reasonable to expect that kind of production from Gonzalez (who's not much more than a utility player) or Desmond (who's struggled over the last month) on a consistent basis. But for one night, at least, the Nationals found something that worked.