Red-hot Nationals run win streak to eight
Bats connect on 16 hits to complete sweep of D-backs
WASHINGTON -- Right-hander J.D. Martin was solid on the mound and helped the Nationals defeat the D-backs, 9-2, at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon.
Washington has won eight consecutive games and is 14-11 under interim manager Jim Riggleman. The eight-game run is the Nationals' second-longest streak since the team returned to D.C. in 2005 and is the longest active streak in the Major Leagues.
Martin earned his first career victory by going five innings and giving up one run on five hits. That run was scored in the first inning, when leadoff hitter Trent Oeltjen hit his second home run of the season.
"It feels great, man. It's awesome. I've been waiting to get here for such a long time," Martin said.
It took eight-plus seasons before Martin made his Major League debut, against the Mets on July 20, as he underwent reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in 2005. Did he think he would ever get his first victory in the big leagues?
"There was always a question [whether or not I would get my first victory]," he said, "but I kept dealing with everything I could. I was just working hard. Fortunately, it paid off for me."
The Nationals were able to give him a comfortable lead by the fourth inning off Arizona starter Yusmeiro Petit.
In the bottom of the first, Adam Dunn made it a 2-1 game by hitting a two-run homer over the right-field wall. It was his 30th homer of the season, and it marked the sixth consecutive year in which he has hit at least that many.
"It was very timely. It was a good way to start the day," Dunn said. "As far as six straight, that will be something I'll be thinking about when I retire."
Two innings later, Elijah Dukes singled off the glove of third baseman Mark Reynolds to drive in Ryan Zimmerman.
In the fifth, with a runner on second and reliever Clay Zavada on the mound, Reynolds made a throwing error that allowed Nyjer Morgan to score on an infield hit by Cristian Guzman.
"They're playing with a lot of momentum, and they've caught some good energy," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "They are playing on all facets. I think [Ryan] Zimmerman's defense this series was probably what it is all the time, but it was a game-changer in this series.
"The middle of their order -- they've got Zimmerman, Dunn, [Josh] Willingham -- [they're] all about as hot as they can get, so there's a lot of damage in there."
It was the fifth inning when Martin showed that he could get out of trouble. Arizona had runners on second and third and no outs, but Josh Whitesell popped up to Dunn at first base, Oeltjen grounded back to Martin and Ryan Roberts grounded out to second base.
"I just told myself to bear down and hit my spots, let my defense do some work. Fortunately, it paid off," Martin said.
The D-backs had another chance to score, but they didn't take advantage of the situation. Tyler Clippard entered the game in the sixth inning and walked the first two batters he faced. Jason Bergmann then came in and shut the door, getting Chad Tracy to fly out to left field and Chris Snyder to hit into a double play.
"We wanted Clippard to start and finish that inning and then go to Bergmann, but Clip wasn't locating his fastball, so we made that move there, and Bergmann did a great job," Riggleman said. "He got the fly ball to left field, which was key to calming things down."
The Nationals added four runs in the eighth inning to put away the game. Dukes highlighted the scoring with a two-run single off Blaine Boyer.
Jorge Sosa ended up saving his second game in as many days by pitching 2 1/3 innings and giving up one run.
The Nationals have played 25 games in 25 days, and will finally get a day off on Monday before going to Atlanta to play a two-game series against the Braves.
"The day off is coming at a good time," Riggleman said. "When you are winning ballgames, you don't want to break it up, but we have some guys in there who have mild strains."
Even Zimmerman, one of the hottest hitters on the team, doesn't mind taking a breather.
"It's nice," Zimmerman said. "Riggs did a great job of giving us all a day [off during that stretch]. Any time you have that many games in a row is tough. It's tough physically, but I think mentally, it's tougher. We did a good job staying strong mentally, not having that many losses."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.