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Energized Nats Enjoy a Rare Night On

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jason Bergmann delivers to the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jason Bergmann delivers to the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (Charles Dharapak - AP)

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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2008

It is just two games, Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta warns. Two games in the span of a 162-game season are hardly defining, but the players and manager alike recognize something is different.

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In the clubhouse, in the dugout and on the diamond, members of the Nationals recognize a distinguishable difference since the days before the infield tandem of Emilio Bonifacio and Alberto González played their first game on Friday.

The difference was highlighted by the Nationals' 10-6, come-from-behind win over the Cincinnati Reds last night at Nationals Park. And it was evidenced in the festive atmosphere of the Nationals' locker room after the game.

Laughter came from each direction. Players hung around watching a West Coast baseball game on the televisions. They were soaking in the moments after a reinvigorated roster won two games in a row for the first time since July 19-20.

"If you don't get excited watching the last two games, then you're not a baseball fan," said infielder Pete Orr, whose two-run, pinch-hit single gave the Nationals an 8-6 lead in the seventh inning.

"Right now, we are just clicking," said right-hander Jason Bergmann, who allowed five earned runs in the second inning but ended up going six innings.

The energy has arrived with the two newcomers, who are a combined 7 for 16 with five runs, three doubles and a triple in their first two games. Bonifacio was 2 for 5 with a double and a triple last night. González recorded a career-high three hits. Both were effective up the middle on defense, and both sparked a crowd of 30,970.

"We just share a lot of confidence," Bonifacio said. "In my second game here, [the fans] are watching me play. They like it. It's really exciting."

Despite the contributions of the two middle infielders, the win can be credited as much to the bench. Orr's pinch-hit single combined with Ronnie Belliard's pinch-hit two-run home run in the sixth inning chipped away at the early lead.

Belliard's home run came when the Nationals were trailing 6-2. It set the pace for the six-run onslaught in the seventh and eighth innings that allowed them to overcome their largest deficit for a win this season.

"That basically won the game," Acta said. "The Ronnie home run was huge. It put us right back in the game. It's not the same when you're trailing by four runs than two."

Despite Belliard's homer and a home run from Lastings Milledge, the offensive infusion was mainly singles and bloopers.


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