WASHINGTON -- A pair of Texans, Chris Young and President Bush, left RFK Stadium in a hurry.
Bush was gone in the seventh inning, heading back to the White House for his customary early bedtime. Winning pitcher Young took off minutes after the final out in the San Diego Padres' 5-2 victory over the Washington Nationals, rushing to Baltimore in hopes of catching the tail end of his brother-in-law's Saturday night wedding reception.
As he spoke by cell phone from the northbound lanes of Interstate 95, Young was basking in a victory in front of a former neighbor of sorts. He is from Highland Park, near Dallas, the same city where Bush once lived while owning a stake in the Texas Rangers.
"Actually, it crossed my mind yesterday," Young said. "I had met him last year. He's from the same hometown, so I thought 'Wouldn't it be great if he were out there?"'
Bush was indeed out there, unannounced, sitting between first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a VIP box. Washington was 2-0 when the president was in the ballpark last year, but he brought them no luck in his first appearance of 2006.
Young (8-4) allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings, striking out nine and walking none. He is 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his last eight starts, and Saturday's win put the Padres at a seven-high seven games above .500 and assured them of first place at the All-Star break.
"You'd much rather be there than anywhere else," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We have a lot of baseball left and we know it, but I've been proud of the guys. We've had a tough stretch here and these guys have responded very well."
Mike Cameron, Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Bellhorn homered for the Padres, who have won four straight and have a 24-16 road record to thank for their narrow lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado and San Francisco at the unofficial midpoint of the season.
Young's first pitch of the game became Alfonso Soriano's 27th home run of the season, but the Nationals didn't muster another serious threat until the seventh.
Young left after Alex Escobar doubled and scored on Royce Clayton's single to start the inning. Jon Adkins came on and got Brian Schneider on a line drive to right, caught at the shoe-tops by a charging Brian Giles. Daryle Ward then hit into a double play to end the inning.
Adkins also worked the eighth and Trevor Hoffman got the last three outs for his 24th save -- and his fourth in four days.
The Nationals, meanwhile, never sent more than four batters to the plate in an inning. They are 5-4 with one game left in a 10-game homestand.
"Certainly we would have like to have won this series, going into the break," manager Frank Robinson said. "But if we win tomorrow's game, we will have had a pretty good homestand. That's the key: Win tomorrow."
Cameron homered to right field in the first, and Gonzalez and Bellhorn pulled deep shots to right in a four-run fourth. The final run of the inning was unearned, with Josh Barfield getting an infield hit and advancing to second on a throwing error by shortstop Clayton. Barfield then scored on Dave Roberts' sacrifice fly.
The inning spelled the end for Nationals starter Pedro Astacio (1-1), who allowed nine hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings in his second start of the season. Astacio missed the first three months with a strained right forearm strain, but was strong in his season debut Monday against Florida.
"He just didn't locate the ball as well tonight as he did in his first start," Robinson said.
Soriano has 27 homers this season, including three to lead off the first inning. ... 3B Ryan Zimmerman's hitting streak reached 11 games, matching Soriano for the longest by a Nationals player this season. He is batting .419 during the streak. ... The Padres are 5-0 at RFK Stadium since baseball returned to the ballpark last year. They have won 15 of the last 18 against the Nationals franchise. ... Hoffman saved four straight games for the first time since June 18-23, 1999, when he saved five straight. ... Washington 1B Nick Johnson stole his career-high seventh base.