Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch argues with first base umpire Jerry Crawford after being ejected.
Photo 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

"When you win a few in a row, you get some confidence. You feel like you can win every single day." -- Ryan Zimmerman, August 7, 2009.

THE RESULT: The "Comeback Nats" did it again Friday night, spotting the Arizona Diamondbacks five runs in the first two innings, before staging yet another multi-run comeback, as the Washington Nationals won their sixth game in a row, a 7-6 decision before 22,674 extremely happy fans at Nationals Park.

As has been the recipe for this hottest of hot streaks this mostly-dismal season, the starter got beat up, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham powered the offense, and they got just enough defense at the end to seal the deal.

Friday night, they even got the benefit of a call that in June probably would have gone the other way.

After a 1-2-3 first inning, Collin Balester had a rough go of it in the second. He gave up three home runs in the frame for five runs. Mark Reynolds led off the inning with his 34th homer of the season. Balester then actually got two outs. But more trouble was right around the corner.

Josh Whitesell, a player Jim Bowden flat-out cut from the Nationals in 2007, hit his first major league home run, and after singles by Augie Ojeda (.249) and the pitcher, Jon Garland, leadoff man Stephen Drew hit a three-run shot that made things look bleak.

But these Nats, brimming with confidence of a five-game win streak, obviously thought nothing of a mere five-run deficit, as they came back from being down six just Thursday.

Washington started the comeback in the bottom of the second. Willingham singled to center, but the ball avoided center fielder Gerardo Parra and went all the way to the wall. Willingham took two bases on the error, and the next batter, Elijah Dukes, hit a sacrifice to plate Willingham.

The fourth saw Dukes hit a two-run double and later score on a Wil Nieves sacrifice.

The Nats tied the game in the fifth, when Zimmerman hit his 24th home run of the season to right center. The blast also ties his career high in home runs.

In the seventh, Nyjer Morgan got things started with a bunt single and Cristian Guzman followed with a single up the middle, with Morgan going to third. After Zimmerman popped out, and with Adam Dunn with a 1-1 count, Guzman inexplicably took the bat out of Dunn's hands by taking second base -- without a throw.

Arizona obviously just finished the walk intentionally, bringing Willinham up with the bases loaded. The left fielder bailed out the mistake of his teammate by singling down the line in left, scoring both Morgan and Guzman, taking a 7-5 lead into the eighth.

All through the comeback, Nats pitchers just kept putting up zeros. Balester settled down to pitch a scoreless third and fourth innings. Saul Rivera, just recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, threw a perfect one and two-thirds, followed by Sean Burnett and Jason Bergmann (W, 2-1, 4.82).

Ron Villone, the fifth National to take the mound, did not fare as quite as well, but did receive the benefit of a close call at first base. Trent Oeltjen (correct spelling) grounded to Guzman at short, and the play at first was called out by umpire Jerry Crawford.

D-backs manager A.J. Hinch was incensed. He started screaming at Crawford before he was halfway to first base, and was tossed quickly. The two then stood nose-to-nose yelling at each other loud enough to be audible in the box seats.

Villone couldn't capitalize on the good fortune though, as he walked the next batter, rookie Whitesell. Ojeda followed with a single, and "interim" manager Jim Riggleman gave Villone the hook, calling on Mike MacDougal for a five-out save.

Big Mac walked his first batter, then gave up a sacrifice to bring Arizona within one. And had this been early-July, it probably would have resulted in a total melt-down. But not with the August version.

MacDougal coaxed a ground ball to end the eighth, and allowed two base runners in the ninth, but managed to close things out without allowing the tying run, for his 11th, longest, and most difficult save for the Nats to date.

THE TAKEAWAY: Wow. Six in a row. Outstanding. That's all I got tonight. It's the longest winning streak since Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2008.

The Nats are 12-11 since the All-Star break.

THE GOOD: Josh Willingham. 3-for-4, two runs, two RBIs.

THE BAD: Ron Villone. One-third of an inning, one hit, one walk, one run.

THE UGLY: Jordan Zimmermann had a bullpen session cancelled Friday, and will have an MRI on his ailing elbow. The pitcher still maintains that he can pitch through it, but the club is definitely being cautious.

"He just came in and he just feels a little something there," Riggleman said. "He wants to throw, he wants to pitch, but with where we're at, we're just not going to let him throw."

NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:05 pm against the D-backs. Garrett Mock (0-4, 6.75) faces Dan Haren (11-6, 2.38).

NOTES: OF Austin Kearns met with a hand specialist Thursday to clean out an injured right thumb after being placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday. He will be out while the incision heals and will return to the doctor Monday.


  1. Andrew // August 8, 2009 at 10:45 AM  

    I want to know who is wearing jersey #10?

    Nats had 3 Web Gems last night. Guzy with 1 and Zim with 2 !!!!!!!

  2. Cheryl Nichols // August 8, 2009 at 2:40 PM  

    Ronnie has been playing great recently! Nice to see the "old" Ronnie back.