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Monday, May 5, 2008

Nats Win Fourth In a Row

Washington, DC--Austin Kearns, who entered the game in a 2-for-29 slump, drilled a two-out single in the eighth inning to lift the Washington Nationals to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kearns went 2-for-4 in the game, raising his average for the season to .194. But for all the struggles Kearns had in the month of April, with the flip of the calendar to the new month he became a hero for the 24,743 Nationals fans in attendance Thursday evening.

Cristian Guzman singled to lead off the eighth inning off Pirates reliever John Grabow (1-1). After Ryan Zimmerman flied out to right, Nick Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before Grabow hit him with a fastball that was a bit too far inside. Lastings Milledge followed with a strikeout, but with two outs and runners at first and second, Kearns took the first pitch he saw from Grabow to right field, driving in Guzman to take the lead, who slid just past the tag from Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit. John Rauch pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his sixth save to make Guzman's run stand up and deliver the Nats fourth win in row, and seventh victory in their last nine games.

Odalis Perez started for the Nats and pitched very well once again, but again left too early to collect his first victory of the season. Perez went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on two solo home runs to Freddie Sanchez and Doumit, but allowed only one other hit and no walks. He struck out five Pirates as well and he looked very sharp, spotting his fastball and using his deceptive change-up to gather the strikeouts. Luis Ayala (1-1) pitched a perfect eighth inning to earn the victory.

The Nats got on the board first against Pirates starter Zack Duke, scoring two runs in the second as Wil Nieves' two-run single got the Nats off to their strong start. MIlledge and Kearns has back-to-back singles to start off the inning, and Wily Mo Pena hit a "swinging bunt", grounding out to the catcher, advancing the runners to second and third. With the infield drawn in, Nieves snuck a ground ball past a diving Freddie Sanchez at second base, staking the Nats to the early lead.

NATS NOTES: With the win, the Nats record stands at 12-17, just four games behind division leading Philadelphia. It also raises their record at Nationals Park to 8-7 for the season.

The game time was a crisp 2:04.

General Manager Jim Bowden announced before the game that first baseman Dmitri Young experienced a "breakthrough" with a team therapist before the game--with the massage specialist finding a release point when working on Young's hip flexor, releasing what had previously been debilitating back pain. Young is on his way to Viera, Florida to work at extended spring training to get his swing back in game shape.

Catcher Paul LoDuca was scheduled to play one more rehabilitation game with Class-A Potomac Thursday evening, then activated before Friday's game, taking the roster spot of closer Chad Cordero, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle.

Nats Win Fourth In A Row also posted at DC Sports Box

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