Notes: Kearns gets hitting stroke back

Notes: Kearns gets hitting stroke back

WASHINGTON -- Right fielder Austin Kearns has turned it up a notch during the second half of the 2007 season. Entering Wednesday's action, he is hitting .293 with seven home runs, 27 RBIs and a .394 on-base percentage since the All-Star break.

Before the break, Kearns was not the run producer the team was looking for. He had a tough time hitting home runs, driving in runs and hitting for average. It appeared that opposing pitchers successfully busted Kearns inside, which prevented him from driving the ball. Now Kearns has made adjustments and has become the hitter the Nationals expected him to be.

"I don't know if I could really point to one thing. I feel better at the plate," Kearns said. "I think I'm having better at-bats. I wish I would have been doing this all year. I'm just trying to keep that consistency and build on it."

Most people in the organization feel that Kearns is successful these days because he made adjustments with his hands by moving them away from his body.

"I don't know if it's the hands. It's a feel thing. When you are going good, you have that good feeling. When you don't, you are caught in between some things," Kearns said. "It has been a battle every day this year. You have to stay at it."

Practice makes perfect: Before Wednesday's game, Jesus Flores was seen practicing popups with manager Manny Acta and bench coach Pat Corrales. It comes a day after Flores was charged with two errors after not catching two popups against the Marlins.

Acta said that he wanted Flores to get in a routine of catching popups.

"He did well. We just don't have enough time during the season to work on those little things," Acta said. "It's not like he struggles with popups. That was the first time that he dropped popups. It just happens. Baseball is repetition. It's good to have repetition of everything and continue to do your job well."

Give it a rest: Acta gave Dmitri Young the day off on Wednesday because he noticed that Young is fouling off pitches that he normally gets base hits on. With the off day on Thursday, Acta feels that two days off will do Young some good. Young is 3-for-17 in his last five games.

So long, Nick: First baseman Nick Johnson leaves for Sacramento, his hometown, on Thursday. He will rehab his right hip for the next three months and hopes to start doing baseball activities after that.

A time for giving: Ryan Zimmerman was acknowledged as a candidate for the Roberto Clemente award at RFK stadium on Wednesday night. A local representative from Chevrolet gave Zimmerman a check for $7,500 for The ziMS Foundation, which looks to find a cure for multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system.

"It's nice to be recognized," Zimmerman said. "It's nice for them to support it. We are very grateful."

On the mound: Ross Detwiler had a bullpen session on Wednesday. He hopes to get into a game no later than Friday.

Stats of the day: Since May 17, Young is hitting .366 (117-for-320).

Did you know: Left-hander Mike Bacsik ranks second behind Shawn Hill in quality starts with eight.

Coming up: The Nationals have the day off on Thursday and then travel to Atlanta to play a three-game series against the Braves starting Friday night. The last time they faced each other was in late June, when the Braves swept a three-game series at Turner Field.

In the opener on Friday, Washington right-hander Joel Hanrahan (4-3, 5.14 ERA) will face Atlanta right-hander John Smoltz (12-7, 3.09 ERA).

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.