WASHINGTON -- Of all the milestones associated with the Washington Nationals' debut season -- first hit, first run, first win, first loss, etc. -- here's one that's yet to be put in the books: first three-game losing streak.
And what might be most impressive is that both times the Nationals did drop two in a row, they put a quick end to it by beating a team that tormented the Montreal Expos for so many years, the Atlanta Braves.
This time, Zach Day allowed just three hits over seven innings, Jose Vidro delivered a two-run homer and Washington edged Atlanta 2-0 Wednesday night, the Braves' sixth loss in eight games.
The Expos went 5-14 against the Braves last season and finished ahead in just one of the teams' past 10 season series. The Nationals are 3-1 against the Braves, with Wednesday's victory and a 4-3 win April 12 at Atlanta stopping two-game slides.
"We're certainly overdue to play good baseball against them," Washington manager Frank Robinson said. "Normally, this is the type of ballgame they would beat us in last year and the year before. They would come back in the seventh, eight and ninth inning. Tonight we closed them down."
And here's another trend for his team: It's 5-0 when the final margin is one or two runs.
"I guess we're going to walk that tightrope all year long," Robinson said, "and sometimes you're going to fall off, but hopefully a majority of the time you'll stay up there and come away with the win."
This one came with a couple of scares courtesy of closer Chad Cordero in the ninth. First, he slipped off the rubber and did the splits on the mound while throwing a pitch to Adam LaRoche, who eventually walked.
Cordero was fine, but he also put runners on first and second with one out. He finished the five-hitter and earned his third save, though, by striking out Brian Jordan and Andruw Jones (0-for-4, hitless in a career-worst 27 at-bats).
"I did pump it up just a bit," said Cordero, who smiled while describing how he lost his footing. His teammates tried to stifle guffaws in the dugout.
"It was too important a part of the game to be laughing," said Day (1-1), who issued four walks but the only hits he gave up were singles.
Day barely got past the first inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Rafael Furcal, then threw six straight balls to walk Marcus Giles and go to a 2-0 count against Chipper Jones, drawing a visit from pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
But then Day did what he does best: He got a groundball that produced a double play.
"He was one hit in the first inning from being out of the ballgame. Probably one or two times he was very close to being out of the ballgame, and he winds up throwing seven innings of shutout baseball," Robinson said. "It wasn't pretty, but he got it done. The main thing you want from him is to go out there and trust his stuff."
Moved to the bullpen after posting a 9.00 ERA in his first two starts, Day earned his first win since June 2004, a drought that was merely nine starts long because he was sidelined after breaking his right middle finger trying to bunt Aug. 1.
He had the majors' lowest run support per nine innings last season (2.47), and it's been even worse in 2005: two runs in 11 innings before Wednesday (1.64).
Day and the Nationals got all they would get in the third, when Brad Wilkerson led off with a single, then advanced to second on Cristian Guzman's flyout to deep center -- "a very head's up play," Robinson called it. The next batter, Vidro, hit a 1-2 offering from Horacio Ramirez (1-1) over the wall in left for his fourth homer of the season and second in three nights.
The ball carried all the way to the red-on-black sign reading "Washington" that hangs about 20 feet beyond the wall in left and dropped into the home bullpen.
A monumental outburst? Well, by Washington's recent standards, yes.
It was just the second time all season that the Nationals managed to put two runs on the scoreboard by the end of the third. On Wednesday, it was enough.
"Any time you get one, two (defeats), just to bounce back and not get into a three-or four-game losing streak is big," Day said.
Furcal provided most of Atlanta's offense, going 3-for-3 plus a walk and a stolen base. He also was thrown out by Brian Schneider trying to steal in the fifth.
"We're going through a funk right now," Andruw Jones said. "You just gotta keep swinging and hopefully, it'll get out of your system."
A 35-year-old man was critically injured when he fell from a ramp on the top level of RFK Stadium after the game, District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter said. The man was flown to a hospital by helicopter.
|Players of the Game|
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|Rafael Furcal, SS||3||0||3||0||1||0||0||.227|
|Marcus Giles, 2B||3||0||0||0||1||0||3||.276|
|Chipper Jones, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.386|
|Johnny Estrada, C||4||0||0||0||0||0||2||.214|
|Pete Orr, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.273|
|Adam LaRoche, 1B||1||0||0||0||3||0||0||.238|
|Wilson Betemit, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Brian Jordan, LF||4||0||1||0||0||2||3||.222|
|Andruw Jones, CF||4||0||0||0||0||1||5||.175|
|Raul Mondesi, RF||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.235|
|Horacio Ramirez, P||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.143|
|Kevin Gryboski, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Julio Franco, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.286|
|Adam Bernero, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-grounded out for Gryboski in the 8th|
|SB - Rafael Furcal (4, 2nd base off Day/Schneider)|
|CS - Rafael Furcal (3, 2nd base by Day/Schneider)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|Outfield Assists - Raul Mondesi 1|
|E - Marcus Giles (1, Misplayed grounder)|
|Horacio Ramirez (L,1-1)||6.2||6||2||2||3||3||1||3.78|
|IBB - Vidro by Horacio Ramirez|
|HBP - Schneider (by Horacio Ramirez)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Horacio Ramirez 112-69, Kevin Gryboski 7-2, Adam Bernero 22-16|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Horacio Ramirez 10-7, Kevin Gryboski 1-0, Adam Bernero 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Horacio Ramirez 30, Kevin Gryboski 2, Adam Bernero 3|
|Brad Wilkerson, CF-LF||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||.328|
|Cristian Guzman, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.145|
|Jose Vidro, 2B||3||1||1||2||1||0||0||.327|
|Jose Guillen, RF||3||0||1||0||1||1||0||.328|
|Vinny Castilla, 3B||3||0||1||0||1||0||4||.400|
|Nick Johnson, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.294|
|J.J. Davis, LF||2||0||0||0||1||0||2||.222|
|a- Ryan Church, PH-CF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.156|
|Brian Schneider, C||3||0||0||0||0||1||2||.244|
|Zach Day, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||3||.200|
|b- Carlos Baerga, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.125|
|Luis Ayala, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Chad Cordero, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-struck out for Davis in the 8th|
|b-grounded out for Day in the 7th|
|HR - Jose Vidro (4, Ramirez)|
|RBI - Jose Vidro 2 (14)|
|SB - Brad Wilkerson (1, 2nd base off Ramirez/Estrada)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|DP - Guzman-N. Johnson, Guzman-Vidro-N. Johnson|
|Zach Day (W,1-1)||7||3||0||0||4||1||0||5.09|
|Luis Ayala (H,4)||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||3.48|
|Chad Cordero (S,3)||1||1||0||0||1||2||0||1.04|
|Pitches-Strikes - Zach Day 94-51, Luis Ayala 20-12, Chad Cordero 19-12|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Zach Day 8-9, Luis Ayala 1-1, Chad Cordero 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Zach Day 25, Luis Ayala 4, Chad Cordero 5|
|Attendance - 24374|
|Game Time - 2:40|
|Temperature - 76|
|Umpires - Home - Gerry Davis, First Base - Bill Hohn, Second Base - Doug Eddings, Third Base - Bruce Dreckman|