GAME 19 REVIEW: Olsen Mows Down Dodgers, Nats Win 1-0

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, April 25, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

WASHINGTON -- In his last outing, Washington Nationals starting pitcher Scott Olsen couldn't get an out in the third inning.  Today, he threw seven strong innings, leading the Nats to a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, in front of 18,395 at Nationals Park.

The perfomance couldn't have come at a better time for Olsen and the Nats.  After Saturday's 13 inning affair, the bullpen was a little thin and if the left-hander had another rough start, the Nats would have been in trouble.

Instead, Olsen sends the squad on their first extended road trip of the season as winners, taking the homestand with six wins in 10 games, and and overall record of 10-9.

After 19 games last season, the Nats were 4-15. 

The importance of setting out on the road with a win wasn't lost on Manager Jim Riggleman.  "I think after yesterday's ball game, losing a tough one, today was really big. We'd be every bit as proud as the way our guys are going about it, if we had not come away with that win. Our guys really battled today and played hard."

Olsen did most of his damage today with his slider, keeping the Dodgers off-balance all day.  He struck out eight, including left fielder Garrett Anderson three times.

Things started off rough for Olsen.  Three consecutive one-out singles in the first inning had to have Riggleman wondering what he was going to get out of his starter.

But Olsen bore down and struck out Casey Blake, then got a lazy fly ball out of ex-Nat Ronnie Belliard to end the frame.  He wouldn't give up another hit until the fourth inning.

Photo by Ian Koski/Nats Daily News

Olsen threw 71 of his 99 pitches for strikes, and catcher Ivan Rodriguez kept calling for the slider with much success.  He did not allow more than one base runner in any inning but the first.

"His concentration level was really at a peak," Riggleman said.  "Every pitch you could just tell he was driven to make a good pitch."

The Nats got some stellar defense after Olsen left the game.

Left fielder Josh Willingham made a diving catch of a sinking line drive off the bat of shortstop Rafael Furcal to start the eighth inning with Tyler Clipaprd (1 IP, 1 K) on the hill.

In the ninth, Dodgers first baseman James Loney lined a double to lead off the inning off closer Matt Capps.  Casey Blake hit a hard ground ball to second, but Cristian Guzman played it off his chest, held the runner, and threw to first for the out.

Ronnie Belliard then lined a drive to right field, but Justin Maxwell laid out for it and made the catch just before the ball hit the grass.

Photo by Ian Koski/Nats Daily News

"They were huge plays," Riggleman said.  "Willingham does a good job out there.  Maxwell's play was amazing.  He went a long way and dove, made a great play there.  That was huge."

Capps finished his eighth save in as many tries by getting Anderson to fly out to center field.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 Washington Nationals:  Pitching and Defense.

The Nats got the only run of the game in the bottom of the first inning.  Nyjer Morgan led off with a single and took second on a walk to Ian Kennedy.  Guzman sacrificed the runners up, and Adam Dunn's slow bouncer to second allowed Morgan to waltz home with the game's only run.

Morgan and Guzman had two hits apiece, which represented the entirety of the Nats' offense for the day.

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsly was almost as effective as Olsen, going six innings and giving up the one earned run on four hits and two walks, striking out five.

But Olsen was the star of the day, his first win since July of last season.

The Nats braintrust has to be scratching their heads as to which Scott Olsen they really have:  the one that gave up six runs and seven hits and couldn't get an out in the third inning against Colorado last week, or today's version, where he had the National League's best hitting team out in front of his slider all day.

They'll happily take today's version.

So the Nats embark on a seven-day, six-game road trip to Chicago and Florida with a winning record.  It's a drastic, welcome change from a year ago.

NATS NOTES:  Guzman posted his seventh multi-hit game of the season today, and upped his batting average to .309.

The Nats have won seven of their last 11 games.  It's the Nats first 1-0 win since Sept. 16, 2008 against the New York Mets.

Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for Olsen in the seventh inning, precluding the Nats from back-dating any trip to the DL.  Riggleman said before the game they were hoping that Zimmerman would be ready to play in the Chicago series, but the cold weather expected might play a part in the decision.