Dedicated to the constructive criticism of the Washington Nationals.


E-mail us at:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Nats Finish Sweep; Beat Reds 4-2

Washington--In a duel of rookie starting pitchers, Washington's Collin Balestar was sharper, more focused and most importantly, got more help from his teammates than his oppponent Johnny Cueto, and the Nationals completed a three-game sweep of the visiting Cincinnati Reds Sunday 4-2, before 32,939 rejuvenated fans at Nationals Park.

Balestar, 22, making his sixth career start, held the Reds to one earned run over five and one-third innings, allowing six hits and two walks, striking out five. He raised his record to 2-3 and lowered his ERA to 4.55. He allowed a solo home run to Reds 1B Joey Votto (14th of the season) in the sixth inning and then turned the game over to the bullpen. Fellow rookies Steven Shell and Charlie Manning held the Reds down for two and two-thirds innings, and newly-appointed closer Joel Hanrahan earned his first save of his career, despite allowing a solo home run to OF Corey Patterson in the ninth inning, his seventh of the year. Hanrahan struck out the final two batters for emphasis after Patterson took him deep.

"I've been waiting on the opportunity," Hanrahan said. "I finished it up the way I wanted to -- with a strikeout. That's how I envisioned it. I didn't picture the home run in there, but that's all right."

Washington's offense did all their work in the first inning, scoring four runs -- three earned -- against Reds rookie Johnny Cueto (L, 7-11, 5.00) after two were out in the frame. Cueto started out dominant, striking out 2B Emilio Bonifacio and LF Willie Harris, both swinging weakly at breaking pitches. But Cueto left a fastball in the middle of the plate to OF Lastings Milledge, and he turned it around with a no-doubt-about-it swing to left that started the rally. It was Milledge's ninth of the season, and second in as many days. Austin Kearns then reached on a ground ball that 2B Brandon Phillips knocked down behind second base but couldn't make the throw on, and Kory Casto followed with a single to left that moved Kearns up 90 feet. Pete Orr, with a rare start on Sunday, singled cleanly to left field, but the ball took a funny hop on LF Adam Dunn, and the ball bounced over Dunn's head and went all the way to wall, plating Kearns and Casto, allowing Orr to slide safely into third on the play. It was ruled a single, one RBI and a two-base error on Dunn.

The Reds have been victimized by poor fielding the entire series, and the error in the bottom of the first just re-emphasized the point. "It's very frustrating because we're making stupid mistakes," Dunn said. "We're beating ourselves. We're obviously not getting hits. They're making every single play in the field -- and we're making none."

Wil Nieves followed Orr's big play with a bloop single to right field that Phillips couldn't track in the bright sunshine, and Orr walked home to make the lead 4-0. All that was left for the Nats was to play good defense and let the pitchers take care of the rest.

Added Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker: "With that shortstop and second baseman [SS Alberto Gonzalez and 2B Emilio Bonifacio], they're a different club -- much different club than we saw last time. They have lots more energy, more life, more creativity."

The Nationals start an eight game road trip to Colorado and Milwaukee Monday night at 9:05 Eastern. Tim Redding (7-6, 4.34) takes the mound against Rockies all-star Aaron Cook (14-6, 3.53).

NATS NOTES: The win raises Washington's record to 41-70, last in the NL East and 20 games behind division-leading Philadelphia.

Washington INF Aaron Boone, on the disabled list with a strained left calf, will travel to Florida to continue his rehabilitation with no timetable for his return.

OF Elijah Dukes (leg), 3B Ryan Zimmerman (hand) and SS Cristian Guzman (thumb) were unavailable. It was Zimmerman's third missed game and Guzman's eighth that he has not batted.

Photos (c) C. Nichols 2008.

No comments: