WASHINGTON -- Tina Turner's Simply the Best blared on the loudspeakers as the Washington Nationals met in the infield to celebrate a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with high-fives, backslaps and smiles all around.
The best? Really? Well, not quite: The Nationals are last in the NL East, after all. Still, after a terrible start, they have not been nearly as bad as many thought they would be. Washington is 39-35 since May 11, when its record was 9-25.
Ryan Zimmerman and the rest of Washington's suddenly potent offense gave Cincinnati starter Phil Dumatrait a rude welcome to the major leagues Thursday night, and the Nationals beat the Reds 7-3.
"This is the growth of our team. They call it 'rebuilding,' not giving us much of a chance," said Dmitri Young, who contributed two RBI singles. "But we never listen to those people. We listen to our manager, and he believes we have a chance."
And the reaction of that manager, Manny Acta, to his team's recent success, including winning 10 of 12 at home?
"Very satisfying," Acta said.
Zimmerman had three hits, drove in three runs and, on defense, made a slick backhanded stab while down on a knee to grab Jeff Conine's high hopper to third base leading off the seventh. Zimmerman checked his glove to make sure the ball was there -- "I had no clue," he said later -- and threw out Conine.
"I really could care less about the number of errors he has," Acta said. "To me, he's the best there is."
That spectacular play backed a strong outing by Mike Bacsik (5-6). The left-hander allowed homers to Adam Dunn and Alex Gonzalez, plus a single, in a three-run second inning -- but otherwise did not allow a hit over seven innings of work. Indeed, take out that troublesome second, and Bacsik faced the minimum 18 batters over his other six innings.
"He was on his game," Acta said.
The only other batter who reached base against Bacsik was Ryan Freel, hit by a pitch in the sixth, then erased when Brandon Phillips grounded into a double play.
Bacsik didn't walk a batter and struck out six, departing after only 81 pitches, 51 strikes.
"Everyone's doubted our pitchers all year, and they've done well all year," Zimmerman said. "We're happy with what we have."
Bacsik is 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his past three starts, a remarkable run by a guy out of the majors completely in 2005 and 2006. He began 2007 in the minors but was called up when a rash of injuries hit Washington's starters.
"The opportunity I'm getting is awesome. It's a blessing really, because they haven't come my way," the 29-year-old Bacsik said.
Dumatrait (0-1) left after 82 pitches -- and those weren't enough to get him out of the fourth inning of his big league debut. The 26-year-old left-hander was brought up from Triple-A Louisville before the game to help fill in a shuffled Reds rotation.
His first pitch in the majors was a 93 mph fastball that ticked off the top of catcher David Ross' glove and headed to the backstop. His second pitch? Dropped in between the shortstop and center fielder for a single by Felipe Lopez.
And Washington kept connecting, scoring one run in the first, two in the third, then three in the fourth.
"He didn't have good command," Reds manager Pete Mackanin said. "It was his debut, and I am sure he was nervous."
The rookie's explanation?
"I tried too hard," Dumatrait said after allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings.
The Nationals entered this series averaging 3.79 runs. But they managed to score 20 in three games -- a big series, even if Cincinnati pitchers have allowed more hits and runs than any other NL team's staff.
"They look like they have some decent energy over there," Cincinnati's Mark Bellhorn said. "They looked like they wanted to win."
Reds CF Freel left in the bottom of the eighth because his knee was bothering him. "I don't know how severe it is. We are going to check on him tomorrow," Mackanin said. ... Bacsik doubled in the fourth. ... Dunn's homer was his 28th; Gonzalez's was his 14th. ... Thursday was the 100th anniversary of Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson's major league debut, and the Nationals marked the occasion by wearing white caps with a block "W" -- the hats worn by the Washington Senators in 1927, Johnson's last season with the club.