WASHINGTON -- Postpone the farewell party for Jeffrey Hammonds. He's not done yet, not as long as he can get game-winning hits with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
In an 0-for-13 slump entering the game, Hammonds took advantage of a rare start to go 2-for-4 and single home Brad Wilkerson with the lone run Wednesday night in the Washington Nationals' 1-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
"Hopefully, it'll put y'all's shovels away, man," the 34-year-old outfielder said while flashing a broad smile. "You've got a lot of dirt on top of my head right now."
Hammonds raised his average to a whopping .190 and got his first RBI of the season. He hasn't hit better than .260 since 2000. Before the game, manager Frank Robinson said he was going to start working with Hammonds to help the veteran regain lost bat speed. It turns out the lessons might not be necessary.
"It was a good momentum boost for him -- a confidence-type thing," Robinson said. "It will loosen him up, relax him, and he'll be able to swing the bat and play the way he's capable of doing."
Asked if he made any adjustments at the plate, Hammonds chuckled and said: "I cheated, man. My bat speed is slow."
One night after Milwaukee's Wes Obermueller took a perfect game into the seventh inning, RFK Stadium was the site of two fine pitching performances, by Chris Capuano (3-3) and Esteban Loaiza. Only one batter for either team reached second base in the first seven innings.
Then Capuano hit Wilkerson on the right shoulder with a 1-2 changeup to open the ninth.
"It just got away from me a little bit," said Capuano, whose 8 1/3 innings was the longest and arguably the best outing of his major league career. "He could've got out of the way, but he was trying to get on base. They never, never call that. It's just one bad pitch. I'm sure I'll be replaying that one over and over."
After Jamey Carroll bunted Wilkerson to second, Milwaukee manager Ned Yost pulled Capuano and brought in Mike Adams to face Vinny Castilla, who hit a weak dribbler that turned into a hit when third baseman Russell Branyan tried and failed to barehand the ball. Nick Johnson was walked intentionally to load the bases, setting up Hammonds' grounder down the third-base line with the infield in.
"Now it feels as though I'm a National," said Hammonds, who started in right field because Jose Guillen is nursing a strained rib muscle. "Maybe we can get some things rolling. Maybe I can help this team roll on a regular basis."
Gary Majewski (1-0) worked the ninth to get the win for the Nationals, who have won four of five and again failed to provide run support during another superb outing by Loaiza.
Loaiza allowed six hits -- all singles -- struck out five and walked none in eight innings. Six of his nine starts have been no-decisions, and he has allowed three runs or fewer in his last eight starts. He is the second least-supported pitcher in baseball, with the Nationals averaging 1.90 runs when he is in the game. Three weeks ago, he was involved in a 0-0 game through eight innings against Philadelphia before allowing two runs in the top of the ninth in a 3-0 loss.
"A lot of the guys over here just keep on telling me, 'We're going to get you some runs. We're going to get you some runs.' It hasn't happened yet, but we won today," Loaiza said. "And I just have to wait till Monday and perform again."
Capuano allowed five hits, struck out six, walked none and used his deceptive move to pick off his fourth runner of the season, fooling Loaiza completely after the pitcher singled to open the sixth. Loaiza froze in his tracks and didn't even attempt to dive back to first.
But someone had to score eventually, and Hammonds came through with the hit that did it.
"We have different heroes every day," Castilla said. "It's not like we have one guy all the time. That's what makes a winning ballclub."
Hammonds played three seasons for the Brewers, making the game-winning hit even sweeter. "I don't mind that it happened against Milwaukee, put it that way," he said, laughing. He ended his 0-for-13 skid with a single to right in the second inning. ... Washington RHP John Patterson received treatment for soreness in his lower back and will miss his next start, Friday at Toronto. Claudio Vargas will start in Patterson's spot on two days' rest. ... Guillen will sit out again Thursday.