HOUSTON -- This is why the Nationals signed Nate McLouth.
With Bryce Harper down because of his sprained left thumb, the veteran McLouth is back as a regular in a Major League lineup, albeit as more of a platoon player than he's been in the past.
The former All-Star and Gold Glover hopped down I-95 after two seasons in Baltimore, and now he's Washington's best hope to replace Harper's youthful abandon.
His time as a spot player so far this season was rough by traditional metrics, including a 4-for-36 line at the plate entering Wednesday. But he's got one of the lowest batting averages on balls in play at .107, an almost ridiculous outlier for the statistic. He's also drawn more walks than strikeouts. These aren't the typical signs of a struggling hitter.
"It's early on and you don't always have a rhythm in those spot at-bats," he said. "Stay with your swing and they'll keep falling eventually. I haven't been dribbling the ball to first every time."
McLouth was not in Wednesday's lineup against Houston, and manager Matt Williams said the platoon approach will be more common without Harper.
"We have to adjust," he said. "We're going to get in situations where we want to try to stack the lineup. Giving [Adam] LaRoche a day off already, we want to have a bunch of guys from the right side against their lefty [Brett Oberholtzer].
"Nate and multiple other guys are available for late-game situations. It's any given day right now."
McLouth pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 7-0 victory and flied out to right for the first out.
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less