WASHINGTON -- The ball was bouncing toward Nick Green, and so was the tumbling sharp end of Elijah Dukes' broken bat.
The bat got there first. The Boston Red Sox shortstop deflected the barrel with his right forearm as the ball rolled between his legs. The play was ruled a hit and Green was unharmed, but the dicey second-inning play in Wednesday night's 6-4 win over the Washington Nationals gave the debate over maple bats another solid piece of video evidence.
"It's scary to see a bat go flying that far," pitcher Jon Lester said. "I thought they did some research this offseason to try to figure that stuff out, but obviously we've still got a long ways to go. You've got to take cover. It's a tough play to make when you've got a bat head flying at you looking to take your head off."
David Ortiz and Jason Varitek homered, with Ortiz collecting his 1,000th RBI, and Lester (6-6) allowed three runs and six hits over six innings for the Red Sox, who again felt right at home in the nation's capital.
Red Sox Nation invaded Nationals Park for the second night in a row, the visiting fans stuffing the seats for a crowd of 41,530 -- breaking the ballpark record by 13 set in the series opener on Tuesday. So far, it's been worth the trip: Boston has won the first two games by a combined score of 17-7 in its first regular-season visit to Washington since 1971.
Without a doubt, the play most fans were talking about as they headed toward the exits was Green's attempt at dodge-a-bat. When the play was over, there was the sobering sight of the bat speared into the grass in shallow left field.
"I didn't see the bat until it bounced right in front of me," Green said. "I saw it bouncing and I put my arm to try to get it out of the way, and the ball went right between my legs. It was unfortunate because it was a double-play ball."
Manager Terry Francona had two thoughts.
First, the selfish one: "I'm probably not sounding like a loyal manger, but I wanted him to make the play. Get out of the way, catch it and make the play."
Then, more seriously: "When you see it sticking in the ground like that? I'm sure that's why the league is doing tests on bats -- because someone is going to get hurt."
Major League Baseball has taken steps to hold maple bat manufacturers to a new list of standards, but there are some who have called for maple to be banned altogether.
"Lord, that was very scary," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "I've never seen a bat carry that far and that fast."
Craig Stammen (1-3) was perfect for three innings for the Nationals, but the rookie threw a 3-2 changeup to Ortiz with two outs and two on in the fourth. Ortiz launched the ball beyond the center field wall to give him RBI No. 1,000 -- along with two more.
"That was a pretty big mental mistake," Stammen said. "I have to be able to shake that pitch off and throw what I wanted to throw."
Varitek hit a fastball into the bleachers in right-center for a two-run shot in the sixth to give the Red Sox a 6-1 lead. The Nationals scored two in the bottom of the inning on Josh Willingham's single and added another in the seventh on Cristian Guzman's triple, but Ryan Zimmerman's bid to tie the game in the seventh fell a couple of feet short when center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury snagged a deep fly just before bumping into the fence in front of the Red Sox bullpen.
Jonathan Papelbon got his 17th save. ... The Red Sox have won 16 of 21. ... Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan was ejected by home plate umpire Bob Davidson in the top of the fourth inning after disputing a low-and-away strike to Kevin Youkilis. It was Magadan's fifth career ejection, his second as a coach. ... Washington's Adam Dunn didn't start after feeling discomfort in his right wrist. An MRI was negative, and he walked as a pinch hitter in the eighth and stayed in the game in left field. ... Guzman has a streak of seven consecutive multi-hit games. ... After winning a season-high four straight games last week, the worst-in-baseball Nationals have been outscored 26-11 in three consecutive losses. ... Washington LHP Scott Olsen pitched six innings, allowing eight hits, two runs, one walk and five strikeouts in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Syracuse against Scranton-Wilkes Barre.