WASHINGTON -- More than 90 pitches into his big league debut, Arizona's Micah Owings found himself in quite a jam: tight game, bases loaded and Washington's No. 3 hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, at the plate.
First pitch: fastball, called strike. Second pitch: fastball, fouled back. Third pitch: fastball, swing and a miss, inning over. And for the only time all evening, Owings looked like a rookie, hopping off the mound and slapping his glove three times.
"I wasn't as sharp as I would like to be," Owings said, "but there is always room to work, right?"
Sure, kid. Not a bad beginning, though. Owings (1-0) struck out six and gave up only Felipe Lopez's clean single in the third.
There were a few other blips in Owings' 96-pitch performance -- he hit two batters and walked three -- but for the most part, he showed the steady presence manager Bob Melvin spoke about before the game and teammates did after.
"If you watched him play out there tonight, you would have no idea it was his first time pitching in the big leagues," said Young, who hit a three-run homer off Jerome Williams (0-1) in the sixth and added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. "He looked like he was comfortable and belongs."
Indeed. Double-A, Triple-A, majors: No matter the competition, Owings is on quite a winning streak. He's 13-0 dating to May 23, 2006: That includes 2-0 at Double-A Tennessee and 10-0 at Triple-A Tucson last season.
He's done it in part by being studious, taking careful notes on hitters when teammates pitch. The Nationals, in contrast, didn't have much to rely on.
"No video on him. No nothing. Just scouting reports," Zimmerman said. "I think the pitcher definitely has the advantage when you don't have anything like that."
On the other hand, turns out that in college, Owings (Georgia Tech) and Zimmerman (Virginia) faced each other.
"He's gotten a lot better since then," Zimmerman said.
Owings showed it with the score 2-0 in the fifth, when a walk brought up Zimmerman, the runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2006.
"Zim's up there, bases loaded," Washington's Austin Kearns said. "What more do you want?"
But Owings came through with his last three throws.
"He made some good pitches when he had to," Nationals manager Manny Acta said.
When it ended, Owings got the usual rookie treatment: a pie in the face during a TV interview, a shower of beer from teammates in the clubhouse, a game ball and lineup card. He didn't sound over-the-top excited about getting that first win. Instead, Owings talked about saying prayers on the mound and looking forward to seeing his parents, part of about a dozen relatives and friends in the crowd.
"Once the game started and he threw a few pitches, he couldn't even tell you where he is," Melvin said. "All he knows he's on a baseball field, doing what he does best."
The Nationals finally got a solid early performance from a starting pitcher. Williams turned in Washington's first 1-2-3 first inning of the season -- he actually retired the initial 10 Diamondbacks hitters.
That was a significant turnaround for Washington. Through its first four games, the team was outscored 8-0 in the first inning and 17-0 in innings 1-3.
Williams wound up going six innings -- the first Nationals starter to pitch more than five -- and allowed four earned runs.
"He gave us a chance," Acta said.
Arizona took a 2-0 lead in the fourth, when Alberto Callaspo stretched a single into a double as second baseman Ronnie Belliard casually grabbed outfielder Chris Snelling's throw. Then, outfielder Austin Kearns misjudged a fly ball that turned into Chad Tracy's RBI triple. And Tracy scored on third baseman Zimmerman's throwing error.
It was part of an eventful day for Kearns, who threw out Miguel Montero at the plate in the fifth, then was caught in a rundown between third and home on a fielder's choice in the sixth.
"I thought I'd steal a run," Kearns said, "and ended up looking like an idiot."
- Arizona SS Stephen Drew (flu) sat out and was replaced by Callaspo, who went 3-for-5.
- All five of Church's 2007 hits are for extra bases (2 HRs, 3 2Bs).