The Nationals have their starting catcher back, and not a moment too soon.
Brian Schneider was activated off the disabled list Friday afternoon after missing 15 games with a strained left hamstring. He was having a rough season at the plate before he got hurt, but the veteran backstop is more valuable to this club because of his defensive skills.
Schneider has led the National League in caught-stealing percentage for the last two seasons, and that's just what Washington needs at the moment. With his starter sidelined for the last two weeks, manager Frank Robinson was forced to
use Wiki Gonzalez and Matt LeCroy, and the results weren't pretty.
Gonzalez had all kinds of trouble communicating with pitchers and was unable to block balls in the dirt. LeCroy was even worse, allowing seven Houston Astros to steal bases while also committing two errors Thursday afternoon before he was unceremoniously yanked during the top of the seventh inning.
REPLAY: Alfonso Soriano went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a two-run homer and three runs scored in a 10-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped.
Soriano hit his 17th home run, stole his 12th base and had his NL leading ninth outfield assist.
The Nationals have won four in a row and six of their last seven.
NATS NOTES:Felix Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder. The injury may explain Rodriguez's struggles this season. Counted on to be one of the Nationals' top setup men, the veteran right-hander posted a 6.85 ERA in 24 appearances before being shut down following a May 19
outing against Baltimore in which he gave up three runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Shawn Hill will have his contract purchased from Triple-A New Orleans prior to Saturday's game, and Hill will start against the Dodgers. A one-time top prospect of the Expos, Hill missed all of the 2005 season after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery. He's come back strong this year, though, and impressed club officials enough to earn a promotion after Zach Day went down with a shoulder injury.
Jose Guillen was out of the Nationals' lineup Friday night, one day after having to depart early with a strained right hamstring. Guillen said the injury is just as bad as it was a week before, when he had to miss five straight games. The Nats decided to place him on the disabled list, since the condition hasn't shown much improvement. Marlon Anderson made a rare start in right field in place of Guillen
Friday night against the Dodgers. Mike Vento was recalled from New Orleans to take Guillen's roster spot.
Ryan Zimmerman continues to dazzle with his defensive skills, and the rookie will probably earn serious consideration for the NL Gold Glove at third base in his first full major-league season. Zimmerman made a pair of spectacular
plays in the fifth inning of Thursday's 8-5 win over Houston. He made a nice stab of Morgan Ensberg's hard grounder to record the first out of the inning, then reacted incredibly quickly to snare Preston Wilson's line drive to his
right to end the inning.
Even though the Nats have been turning things around, the catcher's position has been a major issue. Brian Schneider is healthy and returns to the lineup, looking to solidify things for the Nationals.
Brian Schneider provides some help behind the plate.