It’s been a trying season for Washington’s Elijah Dukes, but the Nationals left fielder may finally have found his offensive stroke.
Dukes looks to continue his torrid hitting and lead the Nationals to a second straight win on Saturday, when they continue a three-game series against the Texas Rangers.
Dukes’ first year with Washington (30-45) has been anything but easy. He was injured in the season opener and eventually missed 34 games with tightness in his right hamstring.
Additionally, he had several off-field troubles before being acquired from Tampa Bay in the offseason and recently was involved in a shouting match in the dugout with manager Manny Acta.
The 23-year-old left fielder struggled in his return from the disabled list, hitting just .154 (8-for-52) with two RBIs in his first 21 games.
But Dukes is batting .388 (19-for-49) with a homer, three doubles and seven RBIs in his last 11 games. He turned in arguably his best performance of the season on Friday with a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 14th in a 4-3 victory over Texas (37-38).
It was the first five-hit game for Dukes, who also stole two bases.
“When you know what you can do, there’s no need to press,” said Dukes, whose average has climbed 78 points to .270 during his surge. “I knew I was a better hitter. It was just a matter of time for me to wake up and start hitting the ball.”
Dukes helped the Nationals avoid a fifth consecutive home defeat. It also helped them bounce back from a three-game sweep at Minnesota and improve to 5-5 in interleague play.
Kason Gabbard (1-3, 4.94 ERA) will try to slow down Dukes and the Nationals, but is 0-3 with a 9.68 ERA in his last three outings. He gave up four runs and eight hits over 5 2-3 innings of a 4-2 road loss to the New York Mets on Sunday in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma.
Ian Kinsler had a three-run double in the second inning for the Rangers, who have alternated wins and losses their last six games.
The Rangers placed catcher Gerald Laird on the 15-day DL after he pulled his right hamstring in the fourth inning. Earlier Friday, pitcher Doug Mathis was shelved due to inflammation in his right shoulder.
Meanwhile, Milton Bradley, who was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game due to a strained left quadriceps, grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the top of the 10th inning.
“We’re just going through one of those times,” manager Ron Washington told the Rangers’ official Web site.
Mock, the latest Nationals pitcher to fill in for injured starter Odalis Perez (left shoulder), was tagged for four runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to San Francisco on June 8—his only major league appearance. .