The Washington Nationals had a team-record nine-run seventh inning and Luis Atilano pitched well enough until the outburst, as the Nats beat the Houston Astros 14-4, before a Memorial Day crowd of 34,704 at Minute Maid Park.

It was a remarkable turnaround from the last few days, when the Nats managed to score just four runs in two games over the weekend. 

Then, the Astros are not the Padres.

Washington's challenge was high enough though, coming off back-to-back losses and facing one of the NL's toughest, Roy Oswalt.

The Nats got to Oswalt quickly, scoring in the top of the first via a Cristian Guzman double, sacrifice bunt by new No. 2 hitter Nyjer Morgan, and a sacrifce fly by Ryan Zimmerman.

Then home plate umpire Bill Hohn got to Oswalt.

In the third, the Nats loaded up the bases and Adam Dunn cleared them with a double to right field.  The television microphones picked up Oswalt yelling "That one's on you," and "I ain't talkin' to you," in Hohn's general direction.

On the second ball call to the next batter, Josh Willingham, Oswalt (L, 3-7, 2.78) stepped toward home plate and continued to bark at Hohn.  Hohn took off his mask and appeared to say "One more."  Oswalt then pointed with his pitching hand toward the mound, then with his glove at Hohn, and the umpire then had no choice but to toss the Houston ace.

Gustavo Chacin came in and got out of the inning, and even hit a solo home run the following inning for his first career home run, but the tenor of the game had changed dramatically.

Once into the bullpen, the Nats took control of the game.

They got a run off Chacin when Willingham singled in Nyjer Morgan (3-for-4, four runs, two SB) from third after a stolen base.  It was Morgan's first game hitting second.  Riggleman thought moving him down a spot in the order would take some pressure off the slumping Morgan.

But even Riggleman couldn't have anticipated this type of breakout in the first day of the experiment.

A couple innings later is when the fun really started.

With Jeff Fulchino on the hill, the Nats rallied like they nver had before since the move to DC in 2005. 

Morgan led off with a walk, and went to third on Zimmerman's double.  Dunn reached on an infield single--Morgan scooted home and Zimmerman went all the way to third.

Willingham walked to load the bases.  After Willie Harris struck out swinging, Ian Desmond laced a liner to right, scoring Zimmerman and Dunn.  It was Desmond's 12th and 13th RBIs in the past week.

Carlos Maldonado, called up when Ivan Rodriguez went on the DL, then lofted a fly ball down the left field line that settled in the the Crawford boxes for his first home run of the season.

But things weren't finished yet.  Following two-out singles by Guzman and Morgan, Zimmerman took one to the Astros bullpen in right center field.

"It was kind of a snowball effect," said Willingham, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. "Even some balls we weren't hitting well were falling, so it was a good day for everybody at the plate. You need a game like that every now and then."

Zimmerman and Dunn both finished the day with four RBIs apiece, and every started except Harris had at least one hit.

Atilano gave up single runs in the first and thrid, and a pair in the seventh after the Nats explosion.  He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs total (three earned) on six hits and two walks.  He struck out one.

The right hander ran his record to 5-1 with a 4.70 ERA.  He is a prime candidate to be replaced by Stephen Strasburg when he makes his major league debut, but he has done everything the Nats have asked of him since entering the rotation when Jason Marquis went down.

In fact, Atilano's numbers are not particularly impressive, walking 21 compared to just 16 strikeouts, but he has been quality on the road, going 4-0 away from Nationals Park.

Bu the kept the Nationals in the game today, long enough for their bats to wake up from their May slumbers.  Before Monday's game, the Nats had scored three runs or fewer in 15 of 28 games in May.

The difference a day makes.

NATS NOTES:  Mike Rizzo told reporters after the game that Stephen Strasburg will start Tuesday, June 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Strasburg, who is 6-2 with a 1.43 ERA in 10 combined starts between Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse, still is slated to make one more minor-league start Thursday, June 3 in Buffalo.

Tyler Walker finished things up for Atilano, throwing 2 1/3 shutout innings.

Willie Harris went 0-for-4 and left eight runners on base.

Adam Kennedy made an error for the third game in a row, leading to one of the Astros' seventh inning runs.

The Nats struck out nine times, walked six times, and left six runners on.