Odalis, Nats' bats overpower Braves
Starter allows two earned runs, offense builds five-run lead
WASHINGTON -- The offense is the No. 1 reason that the Nationals have the worst record in baseball this year. Too many times, the team hasn't been able to get the clutch hit or advance a baserunner. Washington is already talking about acquiring a power hitter for next year. Ranking last in runs scored can make one think that way.
However, in the past four games, the Nationals' offense has been productive. The team is hitting .292 in those games. Friday was an example of how good the Nationals have been, as they collected 10 hits and pounded the Braves, 7-3, at Nationals Park.
By the fourth inning, Washington had a 5-0 lead off right-hander Jorge Campillo. In the first, Ryan Zimmerman singled to right field to drive in Cristian Guzman. In the next inning, Emilio Bonifacio and Guzman had RBI singles. Two innings later, Lastings Milledge drove in two runs with a single to right.
"It's only four games, but we know our guys are better than that," manager Manny Acta said. "What I can say is, some guys are getting healthy. Also, some guys that have come back are getting into the rhythm a little bit. We are not going to be scoring seven runs every day, but these guys are better than what they have shown."
Besides scoring runs on Friday, the Nationals looked impressive doing the little things to bring those runners home. In the third inning, for example, Guzman advanced Bonifacio to third base by hitting a routine ground ball to first. Additionally, Bonifacio and Willie Harris stole bases in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively, and both were able to score runs.
"We are starting to do the little things right," Zimmerman said. "It doesn't matter how young or how old you are. If you do things right, you are going to do well in baseball. That's what we have to do to win. We are a young team that is learning. We can only go up. So it's an exciting time for us."
Left-hander Odalis Perez ended up winning his sixth game of the season as he gave up three runs -- two earned -- in 6 1/3 innings. The Braves had chances to score more runs off Perez. In the first inning, they had the bases loaded and one out, but Yunel Escobar hit into a double play to end the inning.
"I think I was being too fine, too perfect [in the first inning]," Perez said. "I was trying to throw strikes, but it didn't happen until I faced Escobar. I threw a good pitch, and he hit it back to me. After that, I regrouped, and I was able to come out of that big mess."
All three runs were scored in the fifth inning against Perez. Greg Norton highlighted the Braves' scoring with a pinch-hit, two-run homer. Martin Prado made it a 5-3 game when he doubled to score Josh Anderson.
"Odalis did a good job," Acta said. "He got a little bit careless in the fifth to allow those three runs after two outs and allow them to come back into the game. Other than that, he looked like he was in control the whole time and worked himself out of that jam in the first inning. He gave us six-plus innings, which is huge any day."
The Nationals were able to make it a four-run game in the sixth inning. With Elmer Dessens on the mound, Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly to score Harris. Ronnie Belliard drove in the last run of the game, singling off Blaine Boyer to score Milledge.
"Everybody has been swinging the bat really well lately," Harris said. "I think that has been the key to our success the last couple of games. We are going to try and continue to do that. I don't think I've seen anything that has changed. We are still trying and working hard. Sometimes, you get hits, and sometimes, you don't. You are not going to get a hit every time you go up there."
The Nationals are on a four-game winning streak and have improved their record to 50-85.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.