Notes: Rauch's role is secure
Acta insists righty is still his setup man despite rough patch
ST. LOUIS -- Nationals manager Manny Acta said on Saturday that he is sticking with right-hander Jon Rauch as the eighth-inning setup man, just as he stuck with closer Chad Cordero earlier in the season.
In his last four outings, Rauch has given up six runs in four innings. With the red-hot Jesus Colome preventing the Cardinals from scoring the tying run in the eighth inning on Friday, reporters were left wondering if the right-hander might be promoted past Rauch into the setup role.
Acta's answer was, "No."
Acta pointed out that, when Cordero was getting roughed up in April and early May, people were asking if Rauch, then on a hot streak, should be given the closer's role.
"I don't give up on my guys after four bad outings," Acta said. "That was the same case with Cordero. We have to stay consistent with our players. Just a week ago, people were wondering if we were going to take Rauch out of the closer's role [which he filled while Cordero was on bereavement leave].
"Now that he is struggling, we are not going to go through the same thing. Rauch is going to bounce back. He is going to make the adjustment. But we also know now that we can use Colome in that spot if we have to."
Pitching coach Randy St. Claire believes Rauch is trying to do too much on the mound. Rauch doesn't have a problem finding the strike zone. In fact, the three hitters he faced in Friday's game each had two strikes on them, but St. Claire feels that Rauch tried too hard to strike them out instead just getting a groundball.
"He tried to throw harder high fastballs. [He] threw it right down the middle," St. Claire said. "It's almost like he wants to strike the guy out. So he's going to go harder. He has to trust and execute. He doesn't have to go harder. He doesn't have to make them swing and miss the ball."
Rauch, who carried the bullpen during Cordero's absence, watched video of himself immediately after Friday's game. He came up with a simple solution.
"I need to make better pitches," Rauch said. "I have been inconsistent in the zone and leaving pitches up where they can get hit. ... Hopefully, I fix this problem sooner rather than later. Everybody is going to have bad weeks here and there. It's frustrating. I can understand one or two bad games, but four in a row is kind of a stretch. Maybe I'm trying too hard to find a solution, instead of going out and pitching."
Hot streak: First baseman Dmitri Young has gone 15-for-26 (.577) over his last nine games to raise his average from 227 to .294. Young didn't want to talk about the hot streak, but hitting coach Lenny Harris said Young is successful at the plate because he is not going for the long ball.
"He has been following directions," Harris said. "I told him to stay on the ball. Don't try to be hitting home runs. They are going to come to you. Keep working on the left side. Ninety percent of his hits are coming from the left side of the diamond. He is locked in."
The Big Nasty: Right-hander John Patterson, on the disabled list because of a sore right elbow and biceps, will have a bullpen session on Tuesday at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. He played catch on Thursday and Friday without feeling any pain. It helps that Patterson has been getting massages on his neck and shoulder to clear up some of the nerve problems in his elbow.
"It took me about a week to get it going," Patterson said. "I'm seen some pretty good improvements in arm strength and stamina. I still have a little ways to go, but it's headed in the right direction."
Hill on the hill: Shawn Hill, on the disabled list with a sore left shoulder and right elbow, threw a bullpen session on Saturday and didn't have any problems. He threw 30 pitches, mostly fastballs and changeups.
Good gesture: The Cardinals gave Nationals infielder Ronnie Belliard a replica of his World Series ring before Saturday's game. He will get the real ring in a couple of weeks.
Belliard was greeted at home plate by Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty, manager Tony La Russa and the rest of the Cardinals players who had a hand in the World Series championship.
Belliard received a hug from each of his former teammates.
Minor League news: Class A Hagerstown outfielder Chris Marrero was named the South Atlantic League Offensive Player of the Week for May 14-20. Marrero hit .380 with 11 home runs. The Suns outfielder also posted a .724 slugging percentage, good for fifth best in the SAL for the week.
Marrero now leads Hagerstown with 12 home runs in 2007 and is second in the league with 44 RBIs.
Stats of the day: In its last 15 games, Washington is averaging 5.3 runs per game. In their first 34 games of the season, the Nationals averaged 2.9 runs per game.
Did you know: By going 11-4 in their last 15 games, the Nationals have the best record in baseball over that span.
Coming up: The Nationals play the finale of a three-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Nationals left-hander Matt Chico will face St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright. First pitch is schedule for 2:15 p.m. ET.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.