WASHINGTON -- John Patterson's red cap was soaked on a muggy, 87-degree night. His right hand was too wet with sweat to throw his curveball.
So he stuck mainly to his fastball and did exactly what he and the struggling Washington Nationals so desperately needed: He threw a gem to earn a win.
Making do with what support a revamped lineup provided, Patterson allowed just three hits and worked into the ninth inning Tuesday night, leading Washington past the Colorado Rockies 4-0, just the fourth victory in 13 games for the NL East leader.
The right-hander's previous five starts were all no-decisions, even though his ERA was 2.97 in that span.
"I didn't come into the day thinking about a win for me," Patterson said. "We needed a win as a team."
He delivered, and in the process looked very much like what Nationals general manager Jim Bowden called him Monday: a No. 1 pitcher.
"Patterson set the tone," manager Frank Robinson said. "I knew he was on top of his game tonight when he started out throwing strikes."
Patterson (4-2) began 21 of 29 batters with strikes and had stretches where he retired 10 consecutive and nine in a row. He left to a standing ovation after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth to Aaron Miles on his 108th pitch.
"He attacked the zone," said Miles, who stretched his hitting streak to a career-best 14 games. "He is tough to hit, you can say that much."
Patterson only was in trouble once -- in the fifth inning, when both of his walks came. The second was given to opposing starter Shawn Chacon (1-6), and it loaded the bases with two outs. But Patterson whiffed Cory Sullivan swinging on a 91 mph fastball, one of his eight strikeouts.
"I kept us in it," said Chacon, the subject of trade rumors. "It is one of those games where you have to throw a shutout to win."
He gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings.
A day after a 5-4 loss to the Rockies, the team with NL's worst record, Robinson shook up his lineup, sitting slumping shortstop Cristian Guzman and hobbled third baseman Vinny Castilla. In addition, only two position players were in spots in the batting order they already had occupied this season.
The results were modest. The Nationals scored twice off Chacon in the second and twice off former teammate Zach Day in the eighth. Washington has scored more than four runs only twice in its last 13 games.
But, as Jose Vidro put it: "Sometimes lineup changes put different thoughts in people's minds."
In the second, Preston Wilson walked -- his fourth free pass in a row over two nights against his former team -- and charged home from first on Ryan Church's double. Two outs later, Carroll's single to center scored Church to make it 2-0.
In the eighth, Day faced four batters and didn't get an out, with Brian Schneider and Wilson getting RBI singles. There could have been more, but pinch-runner Guzman was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
"I'm not going to say it paid off," Schneider said, referring to the lineup overhaul, "but maybe it got some guys' attention."
Patterson, who last won June 10 despite pitching well, might soon be earning more national notice himself.
He lowered his season ERA to 2.69, and he's now gone at least five innings in 16 of his 17 starts.
"He's got No. 1, No. 2 stuff. He's getting more and more confident each and every outing," said first baseman Brad Wilkerson, who helped out with two nice defensive plays. "He went after the guys tonight and that's fun to play behind."
- Wilkerson leaned over a railing in foul territory to grab a popup in the second inning and made a diving catch of a fair pop in the eighth.
- Schneider was hit twice by Chacon.
- Rockies OF Matt Holliday was activated from the 15-day DL, started in left field and batted sixth. He went 0-for-4.