Nats beat Phils 4-3; Halt 12 Game Skid

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, August 22, 2008 | , , , , | 0 comments »

Philadelphia -- For one game, at least, the breaks fell to the Washington Nationals. It was the Philadelphia Phillies reliever that surrendered an eighth inning lead. It was the Phillies shortstop that could not handle a ground ball, allowing a go-ahead run to score. It was the Phillies second baseman that threw a ball away to lose a double play. It was the Phillies first baseman who struck out three times and left four runners on base. And it was the Phillies starting pitcher that allowed one earned run over six and two-thirds innings, only to be victimized by a lack of run support.

Granted, the Nats did a bunch of similar things that kept this game close as well, but on this night they made fewer mistakes than the competition and quietly got back into the win column.

The winning runs scored in the top of the eighth against Phillies reliever Ryan Madson (L, 3-2). Ryan Zimmerman led off with an infield single and Lastings Milledge singled to right field. 1B Ronnie Belliard put down a perfect sacrifice moving both runners up. Nats RBI leader Jesus Flores dumped a ball into shallow center field scoring Zimmerman, and slumping Austin Kearns muscled a ball up the middle for an RBI single, plating Milledge with what turned out to be the winning run. Manager Manny Acta called on closer Joel Hanrahan in the bottom of the eighth, and Hanrahan did his job, pitching two shutout innings to nail down his fourth save of the year.

"It's a big weight off our shoulders," Hanrahan said. "We knew people were writing about it everywhere. Now we want to win a couple more."

Things should not have been that close though. Reliever Saul Rivera had an atypical poor outing in the seventh, giving up two earned runs on three hits, including light-hitting catcher Carlos Ruiz' third home run of the season. The other run came courtesy of Ryan Zimmerman's two base throwing error (sixth of the season) on a Shane Victorino nubber and ground-out RBI by pinch-hitter extraordinaire Greg Dobbs. Rivera (4-5) was credited with his fifth blown save of the season, but was awarded the win as he was the pitcher of record when the Nats took the lead in the eighth inning after he had departed.

The game was scoreless through five innings, as veterans Tim Redding and Jamie Moyer matched each other pitch-for-pitch. Neither hurler factored in the decision, but both took advantage of slumping offenses to keep their respective teams in the game. Redding finished six innings, allowing one earned run on three hits and one walk, striking out five. He gave up a run in the sixth when OF Jayson Werth double to deep right field, and all-star 2B Chase Utley drove him in with a single up the middle.

Moyer was just as good, going six and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and three walks while striking out four Nationals. He was, however, victimized by his defense. Nats 2B Anderson Hernandez and SS Christian Guzman started the sixth inning off with back-to-back singles. After Zimmerman struck out, Milledge hit a would-be double play grounder to third, but Guzman made a hard "take-out" slide into second, and on the turn Utley fired the ball down the first base line, drawing 1B Ryan Howard off the bag for an error. Hernandez scored without a throw for an unearned run. In the top of the seventh with one out, Moyer walked Kearns and gave up a single to Willie Harris. After pinch-hitter Aaron Boone popped out to Howard, Hernandez pushed a ball up the middle that Jimmy Rollins got his glove on, but then lost in the transfer from glove to throwing hand. It was officially scored a hit, but the Phillies faithful scored the play an error and rained boos down on 2007's N.L. MVP, who is also in the midst of a 3-for-33 slump at the plate.

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. After twelve straight losses, the Nats were perfectly happy that the boos were coming from the other side of the field last night.

Washington faces the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field for the first of a three-game series this afternoon at 2:20 pm. John Lannan (6-12, 3.81) takes the mound for the Nats against Jason Marquis (8-7, 4.67) for the first place Cubbies, who own the best record in baseball.

NATS NOTES: The win raises the Nats record to 45-83. They trail the New York Mets by 26 games in the N.L. East.

SS Cristian Guzman made his first start after missing six games with an injury to his left thumb.