Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ivan Rodriguez has been a calming influence for Stephen Strasburg.
Rodriguez's importance, though, extends beyond Strasburg. His return from the disabled list last week has had a dramatic effect on the club's fortunes, and that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
In four games since coming back from a lower back strain, Pudge is batting .438 (7-for-16) with three doubles, three RBI and 1.096 OPS. His batting average is up to .338, and his 12 doubles rank third on the club, even though he's gotten about two-thirds of the at-bats as most other regulars.
The Nationals, meanwhile, have won three of four games since Rodriguez returned.
Contrast that with the their performance during Pudge's DL stint, when the Nats went 5-9. Wil Nieves doesn't have a hit in his last 19 at-bats, and the Nationals are 2-7 in the last nine games he's started behind the plate.
"It really means a lot to me to start my career with a future Hall-of-Famer catching me," Strasburg said last week.
It means a lot to the rest of the Nationals' roster as well.