Dukes looks like power bat Nats need

Dukes looks like power bat

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been desperate for a power threat since the start of the 2008 season. It looks like they have found one from the right side of the plate in outfielder Elijah Dukes, provided that he stays healthy and continues to stay out of trouble off the field.

Since his return from the disabled list on Aug. 27, Dukes is hitting .318 with four home runs, 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored. For the season, Dukes has hit .274 with 10 home runs, 36 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in only 65 games.

Manager Manny Acta declined to give "what if" scenarios had Dukes been healthy all season, but the skipper said that Dukes is a major force in the lineup.

"All I can say is he makes us better, period," Acta said. "This was a key year for him. Prior to this year, he only had that brief half a season with the Tampa Rays last year. He hasn't had a full season this year, but he's been impressive the whole time he has been healthy."

Dukes had one of his best games on Saturday against the Braves, going 4-for-5 with two home runs and three RBIs. He followed that up by providing the margin for Sunday's win with a bases-loaded double in the 14th inning.

"I know what I can do. [The team] knows what I can do. It's all about winning to me," Dukes said. "If I can contribute to the win with the bat, that's good. Defense, it's even better. As long as we come up with the win, that's all that matters."

Now that they have found their right-handed power threat, the Nationals still need to find one from the left side, because they have a predominantly right-handed-hitting lineup.

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