MILWAUKEE -- It appears that Adam Dunn's defense in the outfield has taken a turn for the better during the second half of the season.
Take Monday's 14-6 victory over the Brewers. The Nationals' slugger made two nice plays in left field. In the first inning, after Ryan Braun doubled near the left-field line, Dunn hit the cutoff man and shortstop Cristian Guzman was able to throw out Felipe Lopez at the plate.
Two inning later, Dunn made a nice sliding catch in foul territory, running into the wall to retire Lopez.
"I don't know what to say," Dunn said. "The catch was probably luck, and Braun hit the ball real hard. I was trying to get in front of it. It was nothing. I was throwing as hard as I could and Guzie made a great throw."
Plays like those made on Monday were a rarity for Dunn before the All-Star Break. In fact, there were some members of the media who thought Dunn didn't give much of an effort in the outfield during the first half of the season. But interim Jim Riggleman defended Dunn by saying that the veteran has worked hard in the outfield all season.
"I know he is giving a great effort, really," Riggleman said. "It's paying off and he has made some plays for us. It's funny, you just get into streaks where you make a good effort and the ball is within reach. Other times, the ball is not within reach and it doesn't look like you made the same effort. It's just that it wasn't a reachable ball for Adam.
"Lately he has had the opportunity to dive for some balls. Last night, he slid for a ball and that's what was called on. The other times, he would make that run into left-center or down the right-field line and the ball would be slicing or hooking from him. There would be no need to dive and there was no chance to make the play, so it might not look like he is making the same effort.
"But I think he has worked hard all year. I just think, lately, there are more opportunities to make a play. Through his preparation, he has been certainly ready to make those plays."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.