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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Need-to-know Nats

We'll check in on all the old faces in new places from Friday night, but first let's look at a couple of Washington hitters worthy of a point-and-click.

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Maybe it's time to start taking the Washington offense seriously, at least in a couple of spots. Elijah Dukes came off the DL Friday and produced immediately (a 4-1-2-2 line, batting third), and new second baseman and leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio was heard from (4-1-1-1, stolen base). Dukes had been playing superbly before his knee injury in July (.959 OPS, six homers, seven steals in the prior month), so by all means make a move if your league forgot about him. Bonifacio has shown a willingness to run constantly in the minors, despite an ordinary success rate at the higher levels, and you get the idea the Nationals, desperate for some new blood and excitement, will turn him loose and see what he can do these last two months. Bottom line, if you need some speed in a deeper group, I'll sign off on the rookie second sacker.

The outfield shakedown with the Dodgers went pretty much as expected: Manny Ramirez takes left field, Juan Pierre will be in center most of the time, and Matt Kemp settles in right. This leaves Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones as the odd men out; Jones did play Friday in place of Pierre, but that's only because the Dodgers were facing Randy Johnson. Manny had two singles in his LA debut, though he also hit into a costly double play in the ninth inning. The Dodgers couldn't fill his first two uniform-number requests (24 is retired for Walter Alston; 34 is semi-retired for Fernando Valenzuela), so Manny went the Gretzky route and took No. 99.

Junior Griffey, still having fun after all these years. Here's why he's decided to wear No. 17 in Chicago, even as Nick Swisher offered No. 30: "I don't want to be a disruption to the team and I've heard Nick is a little out there, so I'm going to stick with 17 and be happy about it." Griffey's first game back in the AL went swimmingly: he had two hits, a run and two RBIs from the No. 7 slot, and he played center field as expected (meanwhile, Swisher moved to first base and Paul Konerko hit the bench). Brian Anderson caddied for Griffey and handled the final two innings in center.

Jason Bay was welcomed to Fenway Park with a handful of ovations, and the unassuming Canadian rewarded the fans with a snappy debut, reaching base four times, scoring two runs (including the game-winner in the 12th inning), and making one outstanding catch in left. Bay was slotted fifth in the Boston lineup - it's possible the Red Sox don't want Bay to feel the pressure of taking Manny's old cleanup spot – but with Mike Lowell tweaking his hip late in Friday's win, a move forward for Bay might be needed.

The closer-by-committee theme drives fantasy players crazy, but that's the story in Pittsburgh right now. Despite Tyler Yates's clean save Tuesday, John Russell decided to go with John Grabow as the ninth-inning guy Friday at Chicago, and Grabow didn't disappoint, working a scoreless inning for his first save of the year. Matchups had nothing to do with Russell's decision; the lefthander Grabow faced three right-handed hitters. Sticking with the Bucs, Andy LaRoche went 1-for-4 with a run in his team debut (batting fifth), while Brandon Moss was 0-for-3 with a walk out of the No. 6 slot.

Brad Ziegler continues to play dodgeball with the best of them, working two scoreless innings at Boston despite one hit and one walk (intentional). The green-and-gold submariner now has 32 scoreless innings to begin his major-league career. I don't know where this story is headed, but it's an easy one to root for.

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Pounding the strike zone is working wonders for Randy Johnson these days. He won his fifth straight start at Los Angeles Friday (6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K), and over this streak he's rolled up 25 whiffs against just two walks. He's at home against Pittsburgh Wednesday.

A bunch of games, a lengthy injury lap: Bobby Cox will keep Brian McCann (concussion) out of the starting lineup until Monday, though the doctors have cleared McCann to play . . . Josh Hamilton left Friday's game in the sixth inning due to dizziness, likely related to the extreme heat and humidity in Texas. It was 100 degrees at the start of the contest . . . Rick Ankiel has an abdominal injury and might not play this weekend . . . David DeJesus started Friday's game with a stiff back and eventually left with a jammed foot . . . Jose Guillen still has a sore hip flexor and was a late scratch . . . Mark Grudzielanek also left early, suffering an ankle injury when he collided in the field with Ross Gload. Esteban German might become an REM-sleeper if Grudzielanek misses any time, though the Royals could also use Tony Pena at second. X-rays on Grudz came back negative . . . A sore quad kept Xavier Nady out; he's day-to-day . . . Michael Bourn is still battling a sore ankle and didn't go Friday . . . Ryan Zimmerman (hand) sat out as expected and remains day-to-day . . . So much for using Ramon Vazquez all weekend – he left Friday's game with a shoulder injury. Freshly-recalled 3B Travis Metcalf took over . . . Nomar Garciaparra's strained MCL has forced him to the DL.

Justin Duchscherer rebounded nicely from his shellacking against Texas, giving up just one run at Fenway over six innings. It was far from a dominant performance, however; he struck out just two and worked around nine baserunners. He'll pitch at Toronto next week.

You have to wonder why the Mariners didn't move Jarrod Washburn last week, shifting in a take-what-you-can-get mode; fans at Safeco Field discussed that over coffee and Baltimore basehits Friday (4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 4 K). The pedestrian left-hander now carries a 4.77 ERA on the year, with just 69 strikeouts over 122 innings. Mariner fans probably got wistful seeing Adam Jones on the field in an opposing uniform; Jones banged out two hits, scored a run and knocked in two.

Scott Kazmir's command abandoned him against Detroit (4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 5 K), but the rock-solid Tampa bullpen picked him up, posting zeroes the rest of the way. C-T favorite Grant Balfour picked up the win in middle relief (1.1 perfect innings, 3 K; ERA down to 1.20), and Troy Percival had a fairly clean ninth (one walk, two whiffs). On the other side, Joel Zumaya was scored on for the fifth time in his last six appearances, and he needed 32 pitches to get four outs. He's not anywhere near ready for the ninth inning, friends.

Speed Round: C.J. Wilson was a carnival ride yet again (blown save, two runs allowed), but the Rangers bailed him out with a rally against B.J. Ryan in the bottom of the frame. In deeper leagues, I'd check on the availability of Eddie Guardado and Frank Francisco, just in case . . . Good for you if you saw this Ryan Ludwick story back in March. He clubbed homers No. 24 and 25 Friday . . . Clayton Kershaw worked six scoreless innings against Arizona Friday but had to settle for a no-decision. He goes at St. Louis next . . . Pedro Martinez was back on the hill at Houston and had another forgettable outing (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR) . . . There's no reason to get tricked by Jeff Suppan's smooth outing (7 scoreless, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 K). If you can't miss bats, you're dealing with a very low ceiling . . . Rickie Weeks had a 4-1-2-1 line with a walk; perhaps that will keep Ray Durham at bay for a while . . . Nick Blackburn has been effective in seven of his last nine turns, including Friday's win over Cleveland (7 IP, 1 R). Here's another guy getting it done despite a very modest strikeout rate, though the peripherals suggest his ERA isn't too far out of whack . . . Francisco Liriano was recalled Friday, as expected, while Livan Hernandez was designated for assignment. Liriano will start Sunday at home against the Indians, with Glen Perkins pushed back to Monday at Seattle.

The light switch went on for Ubaldo Jimenez about two months ago and he's been consistently outstanding, culminating in Friday's gem at Florida (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K; all three pitches were working). Please go pick him up and boost his ownership level, because I'm running out of angles to write about here. And don't let Coors Field spook you – Jimenez actually has a 2.58 ERA and 1.09 WHIP at home.

Handshakes: Brian Wilson (29, scoreless inning despite allowing three singles); Brian Fuentes (19); Joe Nathan (30); Jason Isringhausen (12; four outs, two walks, two whiffs); Bobby Jenks (22); Brandon Lyon (24; Manny's GIDP helped); and of course Francisco Rodriguez (45, a rare 1-2-3 inning). On the flip side, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman both took losses, getting tie-game, home-team assignments (standard for a closer) and failing to do the job. No worries with these guys, they've both been more effective in 2008 than anyone had a reason to expect.

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