WASHINGTON (AP)—The Washington Nationals knew Adam Dunn(notes) would eventually emerge from a prolonged power drought. What kind of effort they would get from an untested pitcher in his major league debut was more of a question mark.
“It’s crazy. It’s been my dreams,” said Atilano, a career minor leaguer who had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in August 2006. “After seven years, I made it, finally. I can’t ask for nothing better than that.”
Atilano, a 24-year-old right-hander recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to replace the injured Jason Marquis(notes) in the Nationals’ rotation, allowed one run and five hits. He walked two and struck out one.
“It didn’t seem like there was any nervousness about what (Atilano) was doing. He may have been feeling it, but he certainly didn’t show it,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “That was pretty impressive for your major league debut.”
Dunn, who had one homer in Washington’s first 16 games, connected off knuckleballer Charlie Haeger(notes) in successive at-bats—a solo shot to break a 1-all tie in the fourth and a two-run drive in the sixth. It was the 25th multiple homer game of Dunn’s career.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m out of a slump, … but I felt good,” Dunn said. “I’ve been feeling good all along, I just haven’t been doing much. Hopefully things will start heating up.”
Riggleman has been willing to wait out Dunn’s slow start, knowing that his slugger’s power stroke would eventually come around. It’s ironic the breakout came against Haeger, considering Dunn had to watch a few knucklers from teammate Matt Capps(notes) in batting practice just to get a read on the fluttering pitch.
“Two thoughts went through my head. First, I don’t care what happens, I’m going to try and jam myself and stay inside it,” Dunn said. “The other one was kind of revert back to slo-pitch softball—try to catch it out in front minus the beer coolers in the dugout.”
Haeger (0-2) yielded four runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings. His two mistakes to Dunn were a 72 mph knuckler up in the zone and an 84 mph fastball that caught too much of the plate.
“A loss is a loss, period—no matter how you throw,” Haeger said. “I threw more fastballs than normal. I didn’t have as good a command of the knuckleball”
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Haeger paid the price for not being able to find the strike zone with his gimmick pitch.
“Unless you really locate (the fastball) with his velocity, it’s a dangerous pitch,” Torre said. “He threw quite a few fastballs tonight and he has. And he’s had some success with it. But the thing he couldn’t do tonight is throw some strikes with fastballs.”
Each team was missing a major piece of its offense. The Dodgers placed outfielder Manny Ramirez(notes) on the 15-day disabled list before the game after he sustained a right calf strain in Cincinnati on Thursday. Washington played without third baseman Ryan Zimmerman(notes), who was out of the starting lineup for a second straight game nursing a sore right hamstring.
NOTES: Dodgers OF Matt Kemp(notes) went 0 for 4, ending his hitting streak at 11 games. … Haeger walked three and struck out two, both season lows. … Nationals C Ivan Rodriguez(notes) left the game after six innings with lower back tightness and will get a rest Saturday, Riggleman said. … Washington OF Mike Morse(notes), on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf injury, has reported to extended spring training in Viera, Fla., where he will get in shape before a minor league rehabilitation assignment. … Marquis has received a cortisone shot in his ailing right elbow, had the joint drained and is taking anti-inflammatory medications in an attempt to avoid surgery for the bone chips that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. He hopes to begin a throwing program in early May. General manager Mike Rizzo said offseason surgery remains an option.