Redding delivers as Nats end skid
Starter limits Braves to three runs on six hits over five-plus
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals snapped their nine-game losing streak, but it wasn't easy as they defeated the Braves, 5-4, at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon.
Washington was up, 5-3, going into the top of the eighth inning, but things were dicey the rest of the way. Left fielder Wily Mo Pena and closer Chad Cordero, both of whom came off the disabled list on Sunday, played central roles in the events of those late innings.
In the eighth, with Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur on first and reliever Luis Ayala on the mound, Mark Kotsay hit a liner right at Pena. The ball hit Pena's glove and dropped in for a two-base error. Francoeur scored all the way from first base to make it a one-run game.
"I missed it because I was playing back for no doubles," Pena said. "So I was wondering how I was going to get the ball. When I got there, the ball was too fast -- bam-bam. It was an error. I don't have to complain about nobody. I have to complain about me."
It got even dicier in the top of the ninth. Cordero was able to get two quick outs, but then he walked Yunel Escobar and gave up a double to Chipper Jones to put runners on second and third. Jones is 7-for-16 against Cordero.
"I was thinking they were going to ease me into it, but I was ready for it," Cordero said. "I would have liked to stay out there and get the last out."
But manager Manny Acta had other ideas. After Brian McCann came to the plate, Acta went to the mound and removed Cordero from the game. McCann is 2-for-6 lifetime against Cordero, so Acta thought he had a better chance with setup man Jon Rauch, against whom McCann was 0-for-8 entering Sunday. The move paid off, as McCann flew out to right fielder Austin Kearns to end the game and the losing streak.
"It was good to see that they had the confidence in me to come into that situation after the slow start that I've had," Rauch said. "In that situation, I just wanted to get him to put [the ball] in play and hope that one of the guys picked me up."
Relief was the word of the day after the game. The Nationals have a day off on Monday and then travel to New York to play a tough three-game series against the Mets starting Tuesday night.
"One of the worst things in the game is -- it doesn't matter how many you win or lose in a row -- losing before a day off," Acta said. "You spend the whole day off kind of sour, thinking about the [loss].
"We won, so we have a day off. You travel kind of happier. It's a lot easier going to New York with a one-game winning streak instead of a 10-game losing streak."
Said Rauch, "We have been playing hard, and things just haven't been going our way. We needed a break. The whole pitching staff goes out there today and [does] an excellent job in keeping us in the ballgame."
Washington's momentum picked up in the first inning with Braves left-hander Tom Glavine on the mound. With runners on first and third and no outs, Ryan Zimmerman hit an infield single, allowing Cristian Guzman to score and give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
Glavine would leave the game with the bases loaded and no outs after straining his right hamstring. Right-hander Jeff Bennett entered the game and induced Pena to hit into a double play, but Lastings Milledge scored on the play.
By the third inning, Washington had a 5-0 lead. Zimmerman and Kearns earned bases-loaded walks in the second, and Aaron Boone smacked an RBI single in the third. All three runs were charged to Bennett.
The Nationals are known as an aggressive team when it comes to swinging the bat, but Acta was pleased to see his position players were patient at the plate.
"Oh, boy, was I happy in that [second] inning," Acta said. "We have been preaching to the guys about having quality at-bats. In that situation, a walk is as good as a hit. Do you want a gapper with the bases loaded? Sure. But do you want to chase a pitch out of the strike zone and keep looking for that gapper? No. And I think they did good. That's what we have been emphasizing lately."
The Braves would make it a game against Nationals right-hander Tim Redding in the sixth inning. Jones hit a two-run homer and, with Saul Rivera on the mound, Francoeur hit a sacrifice fly to score Mark Teixeira. The run was charged to Redding.
Redding ended up pitching five-plus innings and giving up three runs on six hits, but he was more concerned about the team ending the losing streak.
"It's good to get a streak like that over and done with," Redding said. "You don't want to keep going out there thinking what's going to happen today and that it's going to cost us the win. As you can see, you could be up, 5-0, after three [innings], and it's a one-run ballgame at the end. That's why you have to play nine full innings."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.