by Anthony Amobi, Staff Writer

If there’s one thing that fans are finding out throughout the first month of the season, it’s that the 2010 rendition of the Washington Nationals is far different than the roster that has been trotted out the last several seasons.

This afternoon, the Nationals used the long ball and pitching to defeat the Chicago Cubs, 3-2. They took two out of three from their opponents and assured themselves a winning month of April.

Once again, the Nationals got another solid, quality start from a pitcher. Luis Atilano (W, 2-0, 2.25), in his second start since his callup to the majors, delivered again on the mound.  The rookie right-hander went six innings and gave up two runs on his six hits and three walks, striking out just one.

Atalino allowed base runners in every inning except the sixth; however, he managed to escape much of the trouble. The Cubs helped the Nationals out greatly by leaving eleven men on base and could not find a way to inflict more damage.

Washington managed just four hits on the afternoon, but they got the offense when it counted – even without Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup with an injury.

Atalino got some early help from his teammates at the plate as Adam Kennedy hit a solo home run in the first off Chicago starting pitcher Ryan Dempster (L, 2-1, 2.78) to give Washington a 1-0 lead. However, the Cubs would immediately get a run back in the first inning as they tied the game thanks to a Aramis Ramirez sacrifice fly.

Washington took a 2-1 lead in the second inning as Wil Nieves plated Roger Bernadina with a RBI single. Chicago tied the game again in the bottom of the second inning as Ryan Theriot drove in Mike Fontenot with an RBI single.

The Nationals struck back again in the top of the fourth inning, as Adam Dunn hit a solo-homer (an opposite field shot) to give them what would end up being the final score, a 3-2 lead.

After Dunn’s homer, Washington pitchers kept Chicago off the board. In the seventh inning, Atalino left the game with a close lead, but Brian Bruney, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps each threw a scoreless inning.

For Capps, it was his tenth save in as many tries.  He leads the National League in the category.

It's a familiar formula for Washington at this point:  Get a lead, get six or seven strong from the starter, and turn things over to Clippard and Capps.

It's a formula with not much room for error, but so far for the Nationals, it's gotten them to a 12-10 record and a feeling that this team isn't going to be a pushover anymore.