Pudge starts, comes up clutch

Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez made his first start behind the plate since July 4 and took advantage of the situation in a 4-1 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon.

Rodriguez, 39, went 1-for-2 with a walk and threw out two runners trying to steal second base. His biggest accomplishment of the day occurred in the eighth inning.

With runners on first and third and one out, Rodriguez threw out Braves outfielder Michael Bourn trying to steal second. Rodriguez was surprised that Bourn tried to steal because Atlanta was down by three runs.

“We are ready to throw in any situation,” Rodriguez said. “But at the same time, I didn’t think he was going to run. Good thing I was ready.”

Every time Rodriguez accomplished something on the field, his teammates gave him a standing ovation. And why not? He is one of the best catchers who ever lived. Besides being a great defensive catcher, he is 157 hits away from career hit No. 3,000.

“How many times do you get to play with an icon of the game? He is a first ballot Hall of Famer. He is Pudge,” teammate Jayson Werth said. “I know what that probably means to people who have seen him play over the years. I started as a catcher and I know who Pudge was to me as a fan — just watching him and all those good years that he had.

“You get to know him — the type of guy that he is, the type of person that he is, how much he cares about the game, how hard he works, his preparation — you get a sense of who he is. That makes it even more special. We had five games left at the beginning of the day. He is catching. How many more times are we going to get to see him play? I don’t know what his plans are.”

Rodriguez will become a free agent after the season and he doesn’t have any bitterness even though he has been used for only pinch-hitting duties after he was activated from the disabled list on Sept. 3.

“I’ve got two good years here,” Rodriguez said. “What I see is the improvement that we have. We are getting better each day. … As far as the record we have, I’m very pleased with it. We played hard since day one.

“We play with great teams, we battle the teams and we beat good teams. … When you hear other teams say, ‘Oh, you guys are doing better, you guys have a good team, you guys have good pitching, you are guys are playing hard every day,’ that’s a good sign. I think the way we finish the season this year is very positive. And I think next year, it’s going to be a very special year for the ballclub.”

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