Guzman hits for cycle, Dukes homers twice for Nats
WASHINGTON (AP)—As soon as Cristian Guzman stepped into the on-deck circle in the eighth inning, his Nationals teammates started to call for a triple.
He slid into third base to complete just the second cycle by a Washington player, highlighting an 11-2 romp over the struggling Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night.
Brad Wilkerson had the club’s first cycle after its move from Montreal on April 6, 2005.
“It feels great,” Guzman said. “Everybody said, ‘Hit the triple, hit the triple.’ I said, ‘OK. I’m trying.”’
The Dodgers have lost seven straight, and their nine consecutive road losses are the most since dropping 11 in a row in June 1992. The Nationals earned their first series sweep of Los Angeles since long before the move to Washington—the last came on the Montreal Expos’ homestand from Aug. 4-6, 1998.
Guzman started his night with a solo home run in the first inning, a shot that started a five-run burst for the Nationals. He tried to stretch a single into a double in the second and was thrown out, but added the double while driving in a run in the sixth.
What seemed to be a baserunning blunder turned out to work in Guzman’s favor, and it certainly didn’t enter into his mind as he dug for the final leg of the cycle.
“I’m going to go all the way,” Guzman said. “I knew I need a triple, so as soon as I hit the ball I’m going to go to third.”
The triple also scored pinch-hitter Aaron Boone from first for Guzman’s third RBI of the game. Before the hit, when the Nationals were exhorting Guzman to go for the triple, Washington manager Manny Acta was thinking about Boone’s health. He had come off the disabled list on Aug. 14 after missing 14 games with a calf strain and has a history of leg injuries.
“They were going all crazy, and I was just thinking about Boone a little bit,” Acta said. “But as soon as he hit the ball, everybody was, ‘Go three, go three, go three,’ all the way.”
Guzman’s feat relegated Elijah Dukes’ first multihomer game to an afterthought. But it was Dukes who gave Washington the biggest boost with a three-run homer to finish the five-run first inning. He added a solo shot in the seventh to give the Nationals a 9-2 lead.
Dukes was playing his second game after his own stint on the disabled list for a calf injury that caused him to miss 19 games. It was his third trip to the DL this season.
Unlike most of the Nationals, Dukes was unaware Guzman had a shot at the cycle before hiss final at-bat.
“I didn’t know what was going on, until everybody went to screaming,” Dukes said. “I was just trying to sit there and get some air or whatever, and I look at the board because everybody was screaming in the dugout, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ So I went to screaming too.”
The Nationals’ offense provided the highlights, and starter John Lannan made sure the Dodgers didn’t have any of their own.
He gave up a two-run homer to Manny Ramirez in the first inning but did not allow another run. Lannan (8-12) lasted six innings, and gave up four hits and three walks.
Los Angeles starter Clayton Kershaw (2-5) allowed five runs and five hits and issued three walks in 2 1-3 innings, all the runs coming in a span of five at-bats in the first inning. After the game, Kershaw was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.
“You get that two-run lead in the first inning, it’s kind of the last thing you want to do is give up runs, especially that many,” Kershaw said. “Everything went wrong tonight.”
Los Angeles has lost nine of its last 10 and is averaging less than two runs a game during this losing streak. Guzman’s triple was just one more downer for the Dodgers.
“That was the crowning blow,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “We have to go out there and win a ball game to start making us feel good. Right now it doesn’t feel too good.”
While the Dodgers are stuck in a season-long losing streak, the Nationals’ three-game winning streak is one shy of their season high. Guzman’s cycle was a rare bright spot for the Nationals, who have the worst record in the major leagues.
“It was just a great feeling in a season full of some not-so-happy memories,” pitcher Jason Bergmann said. “We’ve been playing well of late, and it’s just good to see smiles on everyone’s face.”
Before the game, the Dodgers reinstated RHP Cory Wade from the 15-day disabled list and designated RHP Tanyon Sturtze for assignment. Wade gave up one hit—Dukes’ second homer—in an inning of work. Along with Kershaw being optioned to Las Vegas, LHP Scott Elbert was recalled from Double-A Jacksonville after the game. … Washington RHP Shawn Hill, on the DL since June 25 (right forearm) will not pitch again this season after experiencing swelling in his right elbow during rehabilitation. … Guzman’s cycle was the eighth in franchise history, by seven different players. Brad Wilkerson had a cycle as a National and a Montreal Expo.