Bats alive in Washington win
Big sixth inning key to Nationals' series-opening victory
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' offense had a three-day hiatus recently. In the final two games of the three-game series against the Phillies, Washington scored a combined three runs. On Thursday, the Nationals had the day off.
Friday night was a different story, however. The Nationals' bats finally came to life as they defeated the Brewers, 5-1, at Nationals Park.
With the game tied at 1, Washington batted around in the bottom of the sixth inning and scored four runs against right-hander Jeff Suppan. With a runner on first and one out, Cristian Guzman hit a perfect double-play ball to shortstop J.J. Hardy, but Hardy bobbled the ball and was unable to record any outs.
The floodgates opened after that. Ryan Zimmerman doubled to right-center field to score Felipe Lopez. After Dmitri Young was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Lastings Milledge followed and grounded out to first baseman Prince Fielder, but Guzman scored on the play. Jesus Flores followed and hit a two-run double.
The Nationals collected only two hits in the inning, but it didn't to matter to manager Manny Acta.
"We got two hits, but they were quality ones," Acta said. "We always said hits don't win ballgames; hits with runners in scoring position wins ballgames. Home runs and extra bases help. And that's what we did today. We had some quality at-bats in that inning and we ended up putting a four on the board."
Flores has been one of the few bright spots on the Nationals, and Acta never runs out of words when he talks about his second-year player.
"He plays like he belongs in the big leagues since last year," Acta said. "The kid never gets overmatched and has the ability to give us quality at-bats. He works the count, which is impressive for a kid that young. He lays off pitches that are very close. We are very happy with the progress he continues to make."
All season, Zimmerman has talked about how it's important to have good pitching to win games, but he said it's time the good pitching is rewarded with timely hitting.
"If the pitchers keep pitching like this and we don't score runs, they might stop pitching for us," Zimmerman joked. "The hitting is important, especially with runners in scoring position. [We took] advantage of mistakes, getting big hits to get them the lead, and give them the credit they deserve."
The winning pitcher was right-hander Brain Sanches, who was promoted to the big league club on Friday. He pitched one inning and struck out three batters in the top of the sixth inning.
It was a whirlwind day for Sanches. He received an 8 a.m. ET wakeup call on Friday informing him about his promotion. He then had to board a plane in Columbus to make Friday's game in Washington.
"It's a great feeling to come here and contribute for a win," Sanches said. "You want to get in there as soon as possible. You want to get the anxiousness, the nerves [out of the way]. But it was good to get out there and I felt good out there.
"All the pitches were working. I was spotting my fastball pretty well, and I had a couple swings and misses on my split. I also had a strikeout on my slider."
Odalis Perez started the game for the Nationals and picked up his sixth no-decision of the season. The reason he didn't last longer was because he cut his left thumb while throwing a breaking ball in the fourth inning. Blood could be seen on his pants leg. Perez would pitch one more inning, but didn't want to take the chance of making the cut worse.
Perez, who is expected to make his next start against the Padres on Wednesday, lasted five innings and gave up one run on five hits.
"I couldn't go longer. I cut myself on the thumb and I started bleeding," Perez said. "I didn't want to keep cutting it and come out with a bigger injury."
Washington snapped its modest two-game losing streak and is now 21-28 for the season.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.