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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Nats Stay Hot In Colorado; Beat Rockies 9-4

Denver -- Despite not feeling his best, Washington Nationals pitcher Tim Redding found a way to keep his team in the game and hung around long enough that his teammates picked him up with a four-run fourth inning as he earned the victory in a 9-4 win over the Colorado Rockies before 33,143 purple-clad fans at Denver's Coors Field. The Nats pounded out 14 hits, including five extra-base hits, to chase all-star starter Aaron Cook and three Rockies relievers.

It was the Nationals fourth win in a row since August 1, the day Washington released veteran C Paul LoDuca and INF Felipe Lopez and traded for SS Alberto Gonzalez and activated 2B Emilio Bonifacio from the minor leagues.

Redding was a bit under the weather to start the game and he got roughed up in the first inning, allowing Matt Holliday's RBI double and Brad Hawpe's two-run single, all with no outs. But Redding, the team's de facto ace, bore down and retired the next three hitters to limit the damage and give the Nats a fighting chance. Redding (W, 8-6, 4.44) ended up going five innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits and three walks. He also struck out six Rockies, which was his saving grace on a night where he just wasn't as sharp as he would have liked. He even added a single, scored a run and made a nifty behind-the-back grab of a one-hop grounder by slugger Matt Holliday. The win was Redding's first since beating Houston on July 10. He had lost four straight starts since.

"After the first inning, and after the way we had been playing the last weekend, I knew if I kept the game relatively close we would come back and win," Redding said.

In the top of the second, Jesus Flores served notice that the Nats hitters would not go quietly on this evening, as he took a 2-1 fastball to deep left field for his eighth home run of the season. But the fireworks really started for the Nats in the third inning against Rockies all-start starter Aaron Cook. Redding himself started the damage, with a clean single to right field. Emilio Bonifacio (3-for-5, RBI, 2 runs) followed with a single of his own to put runners at first and second with none out. Willie Harris attempted to bunt them over, but Cook's throw to third got away, allowing Redding and Bonifacio both to score, with Harris ending up on second base.

"I should have thrown it into the stands; it would have only cost us one run," Cook said. "If I didn't throw that ball down the left-field line we would have been in the game."

Lastings Milledge then singled to left field and Harris moved up to third. Cook (L, 14-7, 3.63) walked Austin Kearns to load the bases, bringing up Jesus Flores. Flores grounded a routine ball to SS Troy Tulowitzki and the Rockies shortstop forced Kearns at second. But Kearns made a hard take-out slide and Tulowitzki air-mailed his throw to first, allowing Harris and Milledge both to score on the play. Just like that, the Nats had taken a 5-3 lead, one they would not surrender.

In fact, the Nats would add to that lead. In the sixth inning, Alberto Gonzalez singled, took second on Redding's sacrifice and third on a wild pitch. Gonzalez injured himself on the slide, categorized as a "foot contusion", and Pete Orr pinch-ran. Bonifacio tripled on the next pitch driving in Orr, and later scored on Harris' single to center. Harris would continue his hot streak, hitting a two-run homer in the eighth inning -- his ninth of the year -- off reliever Matt Herges to close the scoring. Harris finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

Washington faces the Rockies in game two of the three-games series Tuesday at 9:05 eastern. John Lannan (6-11, 3.61) faces Jorge de la Rosa (5-6, 6.94) for the Colorado.

NATS NOTES: After their fourth win in a row, the Nats record stands at 42-70, 19.5 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East.

Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for reliever Luis Ayala in the ninth inning. Manager Manny Acta hopes to be able to put Zimmerman in the line-up Tuesday night.

OF Elijah Dukes and SS Cristian Guzman both missed the game. It was Dukes' third straight and Guzman's ninth.

SS Alberto Gonzalez is listed as day-to-day with his injury. It is not considered serious.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008

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