By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Every victory feels good for a last-place team, but yesterday's 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies felt better than most for the Washington Nationals.
There were many contributors. First was starting pitcher Mike Bacsik, who earned his third win of the season after going 1-6 in his past nine starts. Then there was role player Tony Batista, who came in as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh to drive home two runs and give the Nationals a three-run cushion.
But it all began with the left-handed Bacsik, who had only four quality starts coming in to yesterday's afternoon contest. He gave up a bunt hit and a base hit to Colorado's leadoff hitters, but from there he settled down, giving up only one other hit in his 6 2/3 -inning outing to deliver what Manager Manny Acta called an "outstanding" performance.
But Bacsik, serving as the game's humble workhorse, gave just as much credit to the defense behind him as he did to himself.
"There were some good pitches in key situations," said Bacsik, who improved to 3-6, with a 4.39 ERA. "I didn't throw the ball great today, I got behind on some hitters but I was able to battle and make pitches when I had to behind in the count and the defense did a great job. Felipe [Lopez] turned some nice double plays for me."
Bacsik had given up at least seven hits in each of his last two starts, exiting one game with the loss and the other with a no-decision. The difference yesterday, he said, was simply taking the time to think about the pitch he was trying to throw rather than getting caught up in the moment.
"Executing and sticking with the game plan" was important, Bacsik said. "Just not going away from the game plan and doing something that is not my strength or pitching to their strengths."
But the ending wasn't quite picture perfect for Bacsik. In the seventh, he worked his final batter, Colorado's Ryan Spilborghs, to an 0-2 count before walking him.
"I got out of my realm of what I do," Bacsik said. "I started to overthrow the ball. I wanted a strikeout and that was dumb. I should have just stayed with what I did."
Although he would have liked to exit with one final out to end the seventh, Bacsik enjoyed the standing ovation he received from the crowd at RFK Stadium that knew Bacsik played a major part in maintaining the Nationals' 1-0 lead up to that point.
"Mike did a good job getting ahead with his fastball throwing strikes today," catcher Brian Schneider said. "His change-up was real good, he didn't have his curveball that much, but he was throwing fastball-change-up today and it doesn't matter what count it was, he was able to throw strikes."
Enter relief pitcher Luis Ayala (0-1, 3.18 ERA) to record the final out of the seventh. Ayala struck out shortstop Troy Tulowitzki swinging, sending the Nationals into the bottom of the inning holding a 1-0 lead.
Left fielder Ryan Church led off the seventh with a double off the Nationals' bullpen wall. It was his 29th double of the season, which ties him for fourth in the National League.
The Rockies pulled starter Rodrigo Lopez after he walked right fielder Austin Kearns. Pinch hitter D'Angelo Jimenez's flyout put Church and Kearns in scoring position, bringing another pinch hitter, Dmitri Young, to the plate.
Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba extended his right arm and signaled an intentional walk of Young and his .340 batting average as the crowd voiced its irritation.
"I just took every shot possible," Acta said of how he approached the seventh. "I just wanted to win the ballgame in nine innings. We did everything we could to score runs."
With bases loaded and two outs, another pinch hitter stepped to the plate -- Batista, who entered the game with a .222 average and six RBI in 45 at-bats. He sent the fourth pitch he received hopping to left field, allowing Church and Kearns to race home and giving the Nationals a 3-0 lead.
"It was a big hit," Acta said, adding that he is happy with how Batista has taken on his new role as pinch hitter. "Tony works very hard. He's in a very good frame of mind. I'm pleased how he has adjusted to this type of job. We all know that when he played every day he was kind of streaky, so I thought it was going to take him awhile to adjust to pinch-hitting."
The win not only brightened spirits but also gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead in this weekend's series against the Rockies heading into today's finale.