Today, we continue our look back at the 2008 Washington Nationals with right fielder Austin Kearns
We have been profiling different players from the 2008 Washington Nationals. That season was the first season the Nats played their home games at Nationals Park. Last week, we looked at outfielder Willie Harris. This week, we stay in the outfield and take a look at Austin Kearns.
Two years prior to the 2006 season, Kearns was acquired in a trade from the Cincinnati Reds along with second baseman Felipe Lopez and right-handed reliever Ryan Wagner. In that deal, the Reds got four players back, including shortstop Royce Clayton.
Out of the three seasons that Kearns played in D.C., 2008 was probably his worst. He had a slash line of .217/.311/.316 with seven home runs and 32 RBI’s in 86 games. His -1.2 WAR during that year was the worst of any season in his career, according to Baseball Reference.
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Right field was not the best position for the Nats during the 2008 season. While Kearns did play 62 games in right field, the team as a whole had the second fewest hits (142) and the second lowest batting average (.239) of any team in baseball at that position.
During the first two months of the season, the then 28-year-old failed to hit above .200. On May 18, Kearns ended up having to go on the disabled list because of a right elbow injury, which he needed surgery on. He would end up coming back into the lineup on July 3.
For the month of July, Kearns did end up hitting .256 with two home runs and 11 RBI’s. His 11 runs batted in were tied for third on the team with Ronnie Belliard. His best game that month came on July 20 against the Atlanta Braves. In the cleanup spot, he went 3-for-5 with a home run in a 15-6 Nats win.
His other three-hit games that season came in back-to-back games against his former team. If there’s one team Kearns liked to face that year, it was the Reds. In 28 at-bats, he had 11 hits (.393 average) and three RBI’s. He also had two home runs against another NL Central team, the Houston Astros.
Unfortunately, Kearns’ 2008 season got cut short because of another injury. He went back on the DL on August 26 because of a fracture in his left foot. That injury occurred on August 3 against the Reds when he fouled a ball off of the foot, but as manager Manny Acta said back then, he was a tough player who tried to play every day with that injury:
"“We don’t have anything to gain out of him being out there, taking a chance of fouling another ball off that foot or maybe hitting the bag the wrong way. This guy’s tough. It took a lot of talking and convincing just to get him to do this.” (h/t The Washington Times)"
Kearns ended up playing one more season for the Nats before signing with the Cleveland Indians. From 2010-2013, he played with three different teams. Those teams were the Indians, New York Yankees, and Miami Marlins.
While Kearns is more known for his time with the Reds because that’s where he started his career, he did hit 16 home runs in 2007 with the Nats (third highest total of his career). Injuries in 2008 ended up preventing him from following up that success.