SAN DIEGO - As I wait for my flight back to Washington at San Diego International, a few Nationals thoughts:
* Alex Cora admitted after the game yesterday that the Nationals caught a break in the ninth-inning rundown where he was called safe at third after attempting to sidestep Chase Headley. The Padres angrily protested the call, which would have ended the inning had it been reversed. Instead, Cora scored on Laynce Nix's single. "(The umpire) just missed it," Cora said. "He tagged me." But Brian Bixler had scored the Nationals' first run before Cora's rundown at third base, so the Nationals would have taken a 1-0 lead even if third base umpire Laz Diaz had called Cora out. And as they won the game 2-0, the second run wasn't necessary.
* That ninth-inning rally, in case you didn't notice, was started by pinch hitter (and frequent target of disgruntled Nationals fans) Matt Stairs, who flipped a single to center with one out. Bixler pinch ran for him and scored later in the inning. "You can sit around and you can make excuses about not throwing at-bats together, losing your swing," Stairs said. "But I'm not going to complain about it. I signed up for pinch hitter. You've got to take the bumps. Hopefully you'll have more good days than you have bad days. But you're not going to as a pinch hitter."
Stairs is using a leg kick in his swing, something he'd done when he was with Oakland in the 1990s. Hitting coach Rick Eckstein has suggested the move to several hitters - Jayson Werth this year, and Danny Espinosa before he started last season in the minors - as a way to gather timing in his swing. "That lets me sit back and recognize pitches," Stairs said. "I actually hit a curveball today. That's probably the first time I hit a curveball in six or seven years for a base hit."
* As several players were told Sunday that Ryan Zimmerman is due to come back on Tuesday, you could see how relieved his teammates will be to have him back. Well, almost all of them - Jerry Hairston Jr. apparently has other plans. "So Zim thinks he's just going to come back and take my spot, huh?" Hairston joked, before telling reporters he was scheduling a meltdown in the clubhouse for Tuesday afternoon.
Hairston started 46 games with Zimmerman out of the lineup, most of them at third base. But just to reiterate: Hairston was absolutely, positively, 100 percent joking, with a mischievous grin on his face the whole time. He's a longtime utility player who embraces his role. I bring you this story for your own amusement. Please read responsibly.
Time to pack up. I'll probably spend a fair amount of time on the plane splicing video for my podcast tour of Petco Park, and I hope to have that for you tonight or tomorrow morning. Enjoy your day.