The most important games for Jimmy Van Ostrand over the past week have been the ones he hasn't played.
The Nationals farmhand used last week's Eastern League All-Star break and an extra day off to jump-start perhaps the best three-game run of his career. One night after belting his first career walk-off homer, Van Ostrand finished a triple shy of the cycle Tuesday night as Double-A Harrisburg defeated New Britain, 6-4.
The 28-year-old Minor League veteran homered twice on Monday, including a solo shot in the bottom of the 10th inning off Rock Cats reliever Matt Hauser. He's hit four roundtrippers in his last three games, all since getting a day off on Saturday. That followed the two-day All-Star break on July 9-10.
"Having the All-Star break allowed me to rest up a little and get a little healthier," Van Ostrand said, noting he didn't have a specific injury but was more generally worn down by the grind of the season. "That always helps, and getting that helped me. It got me some extra rest."
On Tuesday, Van Ostrand went deep off New Britain starter Pat Dean in the bottom of the second. The right-handed hitter turned on a fastball that he was anticipating after Monday's two-homer game.
"Yesterday, I did some damage on off-speed [pitches]," he said. "I was thinking today they would stay harder than they had been."
Van Ostrand followed with a leadoff double in the fourth, then lined a single to right in the seventh.
He had stumbled into the All-Star Break, going 4-for-38 in his final 12 games. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native pieced together a 2-for-4 contest right after the break, then went hitless on July 12 and sat out Saturday's 2-1 loss at Erie.
The walk-off homer on Monday a first for Van Ostrand at any level.
"It was awesome," he said. "It's something that you definitely think about every time there's a game tied going into the last at-bat or something like that. To finally get one, it wasn't on my mind going up there. I'm not thinking about trying to do that.
"As soon as I hit it, it was a good feeling. There's nothing better than celebrating a win like that with the team waiting for you at home plate."
Van Ostrand said the walk-off probably qualified this as the best run of his career, but he had a close second in 2009. Playing for Double-A Midland in the Texas League, he put together consecutive two-homer games on April 29-30.
"The walk-off definitely sets it apart," he said. "That's the first walk-off I've ever had in my life. Even in like Little League, I never had one. I have had a couple good runs, though."
Jerad Head went 4-for-5 with an RBI as part of the Senators' season-high 17-hit attack. Nationals No. 9 prospect Robbie Ray did not figure in the decision after allowing three runs -- two earned -- on six hits over three innings. Matt Grace (3-1) followed with two scoreless frames for the win and Ryan Perry struck out one in the ninth for his first save of the season.