Nats Win Back-to-Back, Beat Reds 10-6

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, August 03, 2008 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

Washington--Down early against the Cincinnati Reds Saturday night, the Washington Nationals could have rolled over as they had so many times earlier this summer. But as simple as flipping the calendar to a new month, the new-look Nats never stopped playing hard, never stopped trying and eventually wore out the Cincy bullpen and celebrated a 10-6come-from-behind victory in front of 30,970 appreciative fans at Nationals Park.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening happened in the bottom of the seventh inning, while Reds skipper Dusty Baker was waiting for former National Gary Majewski to trot in from the bullpen to replace Mike Lincoln. Lincoln had just been beaten by Alberto Gonzalez' single to load the bases and set up the big inning. After the initial cheer for the base hit died down Baker marched out to retrieve the ball from Lincoln, the Nats faithful rose and delivered an unprompted second ovation to the hard-working Nationals, appreciative of the hustle,spirit and enthusiasm shown since the roster upheaval at the trading deadline.

Trailing 6-2 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Nats clawed their way back into the game, scoring two in the frame. Gonzalez (3-for-5,2 runs) started the rally with a one-out double, ending Reds starter Josh Fogg's evening. Bill Bray entered and one out later, Ronnie Belliard pinch-hit for Nats starter Jason Bergmann and delivered his 10th home run of the season, cutting the deficit in half. Emilio Bonifacio (2-for-5) then tripled to straight-away right field, but was left stranded. The message was clear though: the Nats weren't going away quietly.

Reliever Charlie Manning shut down the Reds 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh and let the bats go back to work. Lastings Milledge led off with a walk and Austin Kearns followed with a single, moving Milledge up 90 feet. Catcher Jesus Flores struck out, but Kory Casto followed up with a single to left field, scoring Milledge and moving Kearns up. Gonzalez' safety then loaded the bases, prompting the pitching change, and the subsequent ovation.

Majewski wouldn't fare any better than his teammate on the mound though, as Elijah Dukes hit a hard grounder that second baseman Brandon Phillips couldn't handle, and Kearns carried the tying run home. Little used utility player Pete Orr was summoned by Manager Manny Acta to pinch-hit for Manning, and he delivered in a big way,with a two-run single to left field, scoring Casto and Gonzalez easily.

The Nationals added two insurance runs in the eighth, as Milledge smacked his eighth homer of the season and Austin Kearns (3-for-5, 2runs, 1 RBI) singled, advanced to third when right fielder Jay Bruce over-ran the ball, and scored on a wild pitch by Majewski. Manning (1-2, 4.01) earned the win -- his first career victory -- with his perfect inning. Starter Jason Bergmann (1-8, 4.33) had a rough night, going six innings and allowing six runs -- five earned -- on six hits and three walks. He struck out only two.

The Nats look for the sweep Sunday against the Reds, sending rookie Colin Balestar (1-3, 5.13) to face fellow rookie Johnny Cueto (7-10,5.02). Game time is 1:35 pm.

NATS NOTES: The win makes Washington 40-70, 20 games behind division-leading Philadelphia.

Cristian Guzman came in to play defense in the ninth inning after Elijah Dukes had a cramp getting out of the box after hitting in the bottom of the eighth. Guzman did not bat.

Ryan Zimmerman sat out his third straight game due to lingering soreness in his right hand.

Photos (c) C. Nichols 2008.