CHICAGO -- The Nationals are hoping that second baseman Emilio Bonifacio is finally getting it right at the plate.
After being told by manager Manny Acta that he needed to bunt and hit the ball on the ground a lot more, Bonifacio had four hits in his previous nine at-bats entering Saturday's action against the Cubs.
Prior to the series finale against the Phillies on Thursday, Bonifacio, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in exchange for reliever Jon Rauch on July 22, was hitting the ball in the air, striking out too much and was vulnerable to breaking balls. During the four-game set against the Brewers in Milwaukee, for example, opposing pitchers threw nothing but breaking balls to Bonifacio, who went 0-for-15 in the series.
"I think he knows what to do, but it's easier said than done," Acta said about Bonifacio. "We could all sit here and tell him hit the ball on the ground and don't strike out, but that doesn't mean he can turn it around.
"He has been working real hard. He has been bunting more lately, and he's hitting the ball on the ground. It's a work in progress. We knew what we were getting into. He is learning up here. This is the perfect opportunity for him. We are counting on him for the future of this organization."
Unfortunately, Bonifacio reverted to his old habits on Saturday. He struck out twice and hit the ball in the air for two outs and a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Acta gave shortstop Cristian Guzman the day off on Saturday against the Cubs. The team continues to monitor his sore left thumb. Acta also wanted to give Anderson Hernandez, who played shortstop Saturday, some at-bats.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.