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MIL@WSH: Espinosa rips a three-run triple to left

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was not overly concerned about his team's slumping lineup heading into Sunday's doubleheader against the Brewers.

Instead, he chose to focus on the club's starting pitchers, who have been effective throughout the early season. Jason Marquis helped the Nationals to an 8-4 victory in the first game against Milwaukee, and Livan Hernandez was equally effective in the nightcap, leading the way for a 5-1 victory and a three-game series sweep.

Washington also appears to be emerging from its offensive doldrums. After hitting three home runs in the day's first game, the bats stayed hot with two more by Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adam LaRoche in the finale. Second baseman Danny Espinosa had six RBIs in Sunday's twin bill.

"Each time through, our starters have given us every opportunity to win a ballgame," Riggleman said. "We're going to swing the bats and today we did. We have a couple of starters who were banged up last year, and this year they've regrouped and have really taken us deep in the game."

Hernandez allowed one run on six hits with three strikeouts and no walks in seven innings to pick up his second victory. Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada allowed just one run on five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in six innings for a no-decision.

"The team looks flat when you don't score. That always happens," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "When [the Nationals] needed a big hit, they got a big hit."

Washington and Colorado are the only two teams that have had their starters go at least five innings each game. However, the Nats entered the game ranked last in the National League with a team batting average of .209.

Hairston had three hits, including his first home run since Aug. 11, 2010, to give the Nats a 1-0 lead in the second. The Brewers tied the game two innings later on an RBI single by Yuniesky Betancourt.

"Obviously, I'm trying to have good at-bats," Hairston said. "If you have good at-bats through the course of the season, everything will work out. We've been playing pretty good baseball and we haven't hit well as a team. For us to stay in games is a credit to our pitching staff and defense."

Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the fifth. However, neither team could generate much offense in the middle innings after combining for 24 hits in the opener.

That changed when the Nationals loaded the bases with three consecutive singles in the seventh. Espinosa then hit a triple off Kameron Loe and the Nationals led, 4-1. LaRoche then hit his second homer of the season in the eighth to extend the lead to 5-1.

"I knew that I had to just get a good pitch to hit," Espinosa said. "When I try to do too much is when I'm not successful. None of us were concerned about our offense. Obviously, we were not swinging like we liked to, but everything is starting to click."

In the first game, Marquis, who signed with the Nationals before the 2010 season, pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and one walk for his first victory.

The Nationals are hoping the pitching and hitting trends continue in their three-game series against St. Louis starting Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. Comments