Nats flirt with no-hitter in shutout of Fish
Hill exits after five frames; Rivera allows single in seventh
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Manny Acta gave the media a little help after Friday night's game. When a few people were wondering if his team's 6-0 victory over Florida was indeed Washington's second shutout of the season, Acta quickly jumped in.
"Yes, twice as many as last year," Acta said while walking out of the interview room and smiling.
The Nationals (10-25) broke their eight-game losing streak with style, banging out 15 hits and blanking one of the National League's better-hitting teams before 23,006 at RFK Stadium. That was the good news. The bad news was they've probably lost starting pitcher Shawn Hill for at least a few starts with elbow soreness.
Acta was glad to see his offense break out, even while they've still got players out and he needed to do things like start Ronnie Belliard at first base for the first time in his career.
"We were due for a game like this," Acta said. "We had a good offensive game today."
Dmitri Young, who's been starting at first base while Nick Johnson recovers from a leg injury, sat out for a third straight game with soreness in his Achilles tendon. Team officials said he's day-to-day. That's why Acta moved Belliard to first, saying before the game that since Belliard can handle a glove, he'd probably be all right.
Belliard made seven putouts at first and one error, but got the job done. That was the theme of this game. Shortstop Cristian Guzman had played in just four games with a .143 average, but he went 3-for-4, his first three-hit game since Sept. 26, 2005, against the Marlins.
Guzman scored three runs and was in the middle of almost all of Washington's offensive rallies. He said the Nationals were glad the losing streak had ended.
"It just broke today," Guzman said. "Tomorrow is another day."
Hill was the story early, taking a no-hitter through the first five innings before Acta pulled him when the pitcher's right elbow soreness got worse. The right-hander got the first 12 Marlins out and gave up just two walks in his five innings, striking out five.
Hill (3-3) got the win, but didn't get the chance to go after the no-hitter. Josh Willingham broke that up with a single off Saul Rivera to lead off the seventh, and Florida (16-19) finished with four hits. Winston Abreu, Rivera, Jesus Colome and Jon Rauch combined to finish the final four innings and maintain the shutout.
But catcher Brian Schneider, who went 3-for-4, said the Nats weren't thinking much about the no-hitter when Hill left.
"That's a lot of outs, and that's a good offensive ballclub," Schneider said. "There's a lot of game to go."
Schneider said he didn't know Hill's elbow wasn't feeling right, and Guzman said the Nationals certainly weren't happy to see the pitcher leave the game for that reason.
"You don't like to see anyone get hurt," Guzman said.
The Nationals had a 1-0 lead when Hill left, scoring in the first inning thanks to an RBI groundout from Ryan Church. That came after Guzman singled with one out and went to third on a Ryan Zimmerman infield single plus Miguel Cabrera's throwing error on the play.
Guzman scored when Church grounded to second for the quick lead off starter Scott Olsen (3-3). The Nationals then broke it open with three runs in the sixth and two in the seventh.
Guzman was in the middle of things again, singling to start the sixth and then scoring on Church's one-out double to right. Church went to third on first baseman Aaron Boone's relay throw, and he then scored on an Austin Kearns sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.
Schneider later added an RBI double to make it 4-0. Felipe Lopez doubled to start the seventh and went to third on a Guzman single. Lopez came in on a Zimmerman sacrifice fly, and Kearns later got an RBI single for the game's final run.
The offensive numbers were as strong as possible overall, as all eight position players came up with at least one hit. Hill even drew a walk in his second at-bat, so all nine starters got on base. It also marked the first time Florida's been shut out and held without an extra-base hit this season.
"I would say this is the most complete all-around game we've played this year," Acta said.
Now they just have to keep their fingers crossed about Hill.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.