In place of injured starter Jason Marquis, Luis Atilano made his MLB debut for the Washington Nationals last night and shut down the top hitting team in the major leagues to only one run. Adam Dunn provided the run support hitting two bombs on the night to help give the Nationals a 5-1 win.
Atilano did not disappoint Washington fans in his first outing in a Nationals uniform. The 24-year-old rookie pitched six strong innings, allowing only five hits and two walks against a Dodgers club that was hitting well over .300 as a team entering the night. Atilano was successful by painting the corners and implementing his strong sinking fastball, in true Jason Marquis form. While he only had one strikeout, 12 of the balls hit in play on him were ground balls, seven fly balls, and only four line drives. To put it simply, he kept the Dodgers off-balance.
At the plate the Nationals got their major support from Adam Dunn, Nyjer Morgan, and Josh Willingham who seemed to have no trouble with Charlie Haeger's knuckle ball. Dunn broke out of his slump smashing two home runs and three RBI. He led all Nationals batters with a +.261 WPA, meaning he was single handedly worth 26 percent of the win for Washington. Nyjer Morgan also contributed two hits, a triple and a double, while Josh Willingham added a hit and two walks.
To close out the game for the Nationals, Tyler Clippard came on and tossed two hitless/scoreless innings for Washington. Miguel Batistia did the same in the ninth.
The biggest contributor for the Dodgers was former Nationals utility infielder Ronnie Belliard. Belliard went over to Los Angeles last season and despite coming in as a utility player, he uprooted all-star Orlando Hudson for the starting second baseman job by midseason. Hudson has been unreasonably hot this season, batting .423/.444/.731 for the Dodgers, while also sporting an unsustainable .417 BABIP. While Nationals fans may feel slighted that their former throw-away is producing huge numbers in Los Angeles, we have to realize that after he left Washington he put in a true effort to better himself by losing weight and re-learning how to hit from Don Mattingly. You can be angry that a guy was lazy when he played for your team, but you have to support a guy who re-invented himself to stay in the game he loves.