"It gave me confidence that he had confidence in me." --Scott Olsen, on Manager Manny Acta leaving him in to pitch in the ninth, July 5, 2009.

THE RESULT: Scott Olsen fell just one out from his first career complete game as the Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves for the second straight day by the score of 5-3, before 22,677 at Nationals Park.

The team's record stands at 24-55-1 after taking two of three from the Braves.

Olsen (2-4, 6.04) allowed three runs and eight hits over eight and two-thirds innings, winning for the first time since returning June 28 from the 15-day disabled list after a bout with left shoulder tendinitis. He walked five and struck out five.

Olsen cruised through seven, then ran into a spot of trouble in the eighth. Manager Manny Acta came out to talk to Olsen with runners on base, and the crowd had already stood to greet Olsen warmly, expecting his manager to give him the hook at that point. When Acta turned to go back to the dugout without taking the ball from his starter, the assembled Nats fans erupted with approval.

Olsen escaped that jam and left to thunderous applause. And when the pitcher executed a perfect sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the inning, there was another standing ovation.

But with two outs, the left-hander surrendered a two-run home run to Nate McLouth, and Acta finally relieved his starter after 116 pitches, 75 of which were strikes.

Despite allowing a hit and a walk, Mike MacDougal eventually got the last out for his fifth save, and the Nats could get on the plane to Colorado with a two-game winning streak.

Nyler Morgan again proved the catalyst for the Nationals. Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first when Morgan hit a leadoff single, stole second and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's single to right.

Morgan went 3-for-5 with a run, RBI and stolen base, and made several outstanding defensive plays, including nailing Martin Prado at second on a play where Morgan dove for a sinking liner but could not come up with it, rolled and retrieved the ball, and threw a strike to Ronnie Belliard covering for the out.

Belliard went 2-for-3 with a walk, three runs scored and an RBI in the eighth spot in the order. Olsen also had two hits and an RBI.

THE TAKEAWAY: What a difference once player makes on an entire team. We saw Morgan at his disruptive best yesterday, making plays in the outfield no Nationals player comes close to. He was all over the basepaths, creating havoc for Braves starter Derek Lowe (L, 7-7, 4.56) all day.

And you can't say enough about Olsen's performance. He threw strikes, kept his head down and really controlled the game until he started to tire in the eighth. He was economical with his pitches despite striking out five and walking five.

"I did OK," Olsen said after the game. "I threw the ball down in the zone pretty well for the most part. I kept them off-balance with the offspeed pitches. Too many walks for my liking there, but we did pretty good."

THE GOOD: Olsen. This makes two straight very good performances since returning from his bout with shoulder tendinitis. If he can continue to be effective, the Nats might find themselves turning a corner as we head into the second half of the season.

THE BAD: Every starter had a hit, so we'll have to go with Josh Bard. He went 1-for-4 with five runners left on base, and really struggled with his running due to the sore groin he's been nursing for the better part of two weeks now.

THE UGLY: Nationals Pyrotechnics. With two outs and two strikes on Chipper Jones in the top of the ninth, Jones fouled a pitch off, but the pyrotechnician on top of the stadium thought it was a swinging strike three. BANG-ZOOM went the fireworks, for a two-strike foul ball!

Thankfully MacDougal eventually finished off the save, or it would have been one more piece of negative vibe that the national press could have on our account.

NEXT GAME: The Nats ride their two-game win streak into Colorado to face the Rockies tonight at 8:40 pm EDT. Craig Stammen (1-3, 5.44) takes on all-star Jason Marquis (10-5, 3.87).

NOTES: Ryan Zimmerman was named as a reserve to the National League All-Star team. Cristian Guzman was named as one of the five finalists in the fan vote for the "Last Man".

Photos 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.