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Arizona at Washington

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First-place Nationals complete sweep of Diamondbacks

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- Over and over during spring training, Frank Robinson would tell anyone who would listen: If his Washington Nationals could do all the little things the right way, they could compete with any team.

No big boppers or Cy Young award winners on this roster, Robinson would say, almost boasting. Can't count on three-run homers or shutouts. Nope, but with key hits, defense and pitching, these Nationals could be more than merely ex-Expos.

And he was saying it again Sunday after the Nationals' 7-3 victory over Arizona completed a series sweep, stretched their winning streak to five games and improved their NL East-leading record to 8-4.

"We have to chip away and do the little things to get a run in," Robinson said. "Right now we're doing a lot of things right."

Eight starters produced at least one hit; only slumping Cristian Guzman didn't, but even he contributed an RBI with a bases-loaded walk. Four players drove in runs. The bullpen and sparkling defense managed to get out of a first-and-third, no-out jam in the seventh -- perhaps not coincidentally, the same inning in which the Nationals sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs without the benefit of a homer.

"It's a great team 'W,'" Jose Vidro said. "Everybody put a little something there."

He had two hits in the seventh, including a two-run single, and drove in Washington's first run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

The capital's first major-league team in 34 years is having a grand ol' time and so are its fans. Sunday's crowd of 35,463 followed those of 45,596 for the home opener Thursday, and 34,943 on Saturday. That's 116,002 for three games -- or more than one-seventh of what the Expos totaled for 81 home dates in Montreal and Puerto Rico last season.

"When I look at the stands and see everybody jumping up and down, it's incredible," said Vidro, the team's longest-tenured player. "I looked at that and said, 'This is beautiful.'"

The 2004 Expos (67-95) pulled off only three sweeps of three-game series -- and twice the opponent was an Arizona club that went 51-111. Montreal only had one winning streak all season longer than the Nationals' current one.

Such stretches are indeed built on "little things," as Washington demonstrated in each half of the seventh Sunday.

Starter Esteban Loaiza (three no-decisions) yielded three runs on eight hits and worked his way in and out of trouble: Diamondbacks leadoff hitter Craig Counsell had three hits, including a two-run single in the second, but was stranded each time.

With Arizona up 3-1 in the seventh and runners on the corners, Robinson removed Loaiza. In came Joe Horgan, whose two-seam fastball induced Luis Gonzalez to slap a grounder to Guzman. The shortstop looked the runner on third back to the bag, then stepped on second for one out and threw to first for another.

"That's huge," Robinson said. "It really picked up the team, and it may have taken a little heart out of the Diamondbacks."

Horgan's day was done after two pitches, and T.J. Tucker (1-0) picked up the win by facing just one batter, too: Troy Glaus, who flied out.

"We have to do that every time -- hold them right down, and let the offense do their job," Tucker said.

That it did, breaking out with a big seventh inning for the second game in a row: On Saturday, the Nationals' seven-run seventh fueled a 9-3 win. Neither outburst included a homer.

As Arizona starter Brad Halsey (six-plus innings, three runs) put it: "It's definitely a good lineup. They are tough all the way through."

This time, the biggest hits were Jose Guillen's ground-rule double, and Nick Johnson's two-run triple off Mike Koplove (1-1). On Johnson's hit, Guillen waited to make sure the ball fell in, and Vinny Castilla nearly lapped him as they rounded the bases. But they slid in safely one right after the other -- then hopped up and put their arms around each other, smiling.

Pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge walked, and Brian Schneider grounded a single up the middle to drive in Johnson with the go-ahead run, making it 4-3.

Another pinch-hitter, Ryan Church, struck out, but Sledge and Schneider pulled off a double steal. Brad Wilkerson was walked intentionally to load the bases and bring up Guzman, who had grounded out three times to drop his season average to .114 (5-for-44). But he coaxed that walk to make it 5-3, before Vidro's second single of the inning.

"It's a great positive attitude on the team, and that's what carries this team right now," Robinson said. "They feel that they're going to come back."

Notes

  • Washington heads into a stretch of 13 games against division foes, starting Monday against Dontrelle Willis (0.00 ERA) and Florida.
  • Arizona's next 16 are against the NL West.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Vinny Castilla scores right after Jose Guillen on Nick Johnson's seventh-inning triple.   (Getty Images)
Vinny Castilla scores right after Jose Guillen on Nick Johnson's seventh-inning triple. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Washington

J. Vidro
AB 3
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 3
Washington

N. Johnson
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 0
RBI 2
 
Arizona Diamondbacks
Craig Counsell, 2B5032000 .316
Royce Clayton, SS3010011 .225
Luis Gonzalez, LF4010013 .333
Troy Glaus, 3B4000014 .244
Shawn Green, RF4000021 .262
Chad Tracy, 1B4120011 .385
Koyie Hill, C3100101 .133
Quinton McCracken, CF3111110 .261
Brad Halsey, P3000024 .000
    Mike Koplove, P0000000 .000
    Mike Gosling, P0000000 .000
    Brian Bruney, P0000000 .000
   a- Alex Cintron, PH1000000 .182
Totals343832915 
a-popped out for Bruney in the 9th
Batting
2B - Craig Counsell (2, Loaiza), Royce Clayton (4, Loaiza), Chad Tracy (3, Loaiza), Quinton McCracken (2, Loaiza)
SH - Royce Clayton (3)
RBI - Craig Counsell 2 (5), Quinton McCracken (1)
2-OUT RBI - Craig Counsell 2 (2)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Clayton-Counsell-Tracy, Clayton-Counsell-Tracy, Bruney-Clayton-Tracy
Arizona Diamondbacks
Brad Halsey 6733020 2.81
Mike Koplove (BS,1; L,1-1) 0.2244310 5.87
Mike Gosling0100000 12.46
Brian Bruney 1.1100010 3.38
IBB - Wilkerson by Mike Koplove
Pitches-Strikes - Brad Halsey 76-56, Mike Koplove 34-14, Mike Gosling 5-3, Brian Bruney 10-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brad Halsey 5-8, Mike Koplove 1-0, Brian Bruney 2-0
Batters Faced - Brad Halsey 22, Mike Koplove 7, Mike Gosling 1, Brian Bruney 4
Washington Nationals
Brad Wilkerson, CF3210111 .340
Cristian Guzman, SS3001102 .114
Jose Vidro, 2B3023000 .318
Jose Guillen, RF4120012 .327
Vinny Castilla, 3B4110001 .429
Nick Johnson, 1B4122002 .308
J.J. Davis, LF2010010 .286
   a- Terrmel Sledge, PH-LF1100101 .250
Brian Schneider, C3111001 .263
Esteban Loaiza, P2010000 .286
    Joe Horgan, P0000000 .000
    T.J. Tucker, P0000000 .000
   b- Ryan Church, PH1000010 .200
    Joey Eischen, P00000001.000
    Luis Ayala, P0000000 .000
Totals3071173410 
a-walked for Davis in the 7th
b-struck out for Tucker in the 7th
Batting
2B - Brad Wilkerson (4, Halsey), Jose Guillen (2, Halsey)
3B - Nick Johnson (1, Koplove)
SF - Jose Vidro (2)
RBI - Cristian Guzman (2), Jose Vidro 3 (11), Nick Johnson 2 (4), Brian Schneider (4)
2-OUT RBI - Cristian Guzman (1), Jose Vidro 2 (2)
SB - Terrmel Sledge (2, 3rd base off Koplove/Hill), Brian Schneider (1, 2nd base off Koplove/Hill)
CS - J.J. Davis (1, 2nd base by Halsey/Hill)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
DP - Guzman-N. Johnson
Washington Nationals
Esteban Loaiza 6833270 4.58
Joe Horgan 0.2000000 12.00
T.J. Tucker (W,1-0) 0.1000000 0.00
Joey Eischen 1000010 3.86
Luis Ayala 1000010 4.32
IBB - McCracken by Esteban Loaiza
Pitches-Strikes - Esteban Loaiza 114-73, Joe Horgan 2-2, T.J. Tucker 5-3, Joey Eischen 9-6, Luis Ayala 20-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Esteban Loaiza 8-4, Joe Horgan 1-0
Batters Faced - Esteban Loaiza 29, Joe Horgan 1, T.J. Tucker 1, Joey Eischen 3, Luis Ayala 3
Game Information
Attendance - 35463
Game Time - 2:55
Temperature - 71
Umpires - Home - Bob Davidson, First Base - Dana DeMuth, Second Base - Jim Joyce, Third Base - Lazaro Diaz