Day's Start Provides Relief

Nick Johnson, right, is congratulated by Jose Vidro and the batboy after the first of his two home runs.
Nick Johnson, right, is congratulated by Jose Vidro and the batboy after the first of his two home runs. (By Kevin Wolf -- Associated Press)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 6, 2006

A few hours before the Washington Nationals' 6-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates last night, reserve infielder Marlon Anderson bounded out of the dugout and greeted his manager, Frank Robinson, in a tone that belied the club's early-season doldrums.

"Mr. Robinson, how are you today?" he said, cheerily.

"You know," came the acidic response.

"It's gonna get better," Anderson said.

"Gotta win," Robinson remarked, shaking his head.

Request granted.

Right-hander Zach Day, in his second start since being claimed off waivers last week, benefited from an early three-run cushion, including the first of Nick Johnson's two home runs, as the Nationals won at RFK Stadium for the first time in two weeks.

Day scattered four singles in seven innings to become the first Nationals starter to register a win at home this season. His five-strikeout, one-walk performance came at a critical time for Washington (10-20), which had lost nine of its first 10 at home, including six in a row, and found itself falling deeper in the NL East standings.

"If we don't win tonight," catcher Matthew LeCroy said before taking a deep breath, "we don't know what's going to happen."

One night after an 11-3 loss to Florida, almost everything went right for the Nationals before a crowd of 21,059. Johnson (2 for 2 with two walks and four RBI) smashed a two-run homer to cap the first inning and added another blast in the eighth.

Washington finished with just six hits -- three coming in the eighth -- but it was more than enough for Day, who used his sinker to retire 10 in a row of 13 of 14 before giving way to Jon Rauch and Felix Rodriguez for Washington's first shutout since last September.

"I pitched today and I didn't necessarily try to throw my way out of it; I pitched my way out of it, so that's a big step," said Day, who last threw seven scoreless innings on April 20, 2005, against the Braves. He was traded to Colorado last July, then returned to Washington a week ago after getting dumped by the Rockies.

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