Redding, Nats Persevere to Stretch Win Streak to Four

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

DENVER, Aug. 4 -- Even standing alone, Tim Redding is a fighter. No matter his warts, no matter his pace, the Washington Nationals' right-hander delivers on a two-word bottom line: He lasts. He weathers bad innings and soaring pitch counts and imperfect stuff. Redding has made a habit of winning even when struggles outweigh success.

But Redding's work in Monday night's 9-4 Washington victory against Colorado at Coors Field showed something that reflected more than just his own career. On this night, his five-plus innings and 112 pitches -- a labor he described as a "grind" -- shed light not just on Redding's confidence in himself, but on his confidence in his team. In recent days, during what is now a four-game winning streak, many within the Nationals clubhouse have talked about newfound energy, much of it brought on by an injection of youth.

Redding, 30, has little to do with such a movement. But the fact that he can still feed off of it, in a tangible way, demonstrates its pervasiveness. Redding started his game against the Rockies with one of the ugliest innings of his season. The first four batters he faced reached base. The first three runners scored. Single, walk, double, single: During that procession, Redding wasted 19 pitches. Just five days removed from one of his season's rockiest outings -- a four-inning, 10-hit game against Philadelphia -- Redding, and Washington, appeared ready for another long night.

After the first inning, the Nationals trailed 3-0. Their own lineup, facing Colorado ace Aaron Cook, lacked Elijah Dukes (calf), Ryan Zimmerman (right hand) and Cristian Guzmán (left thumb). They were fighting back with Nationals Lite. But at just the right time, the battle-back pattern that has spread across much of Redding's career joined forces with Washington's newfound tendency to fight for itself.

Redding channeled both.

Even warming up before the game, Redding felt lousy. His shoulder remained stiff. Given such a scenario earlier in his career, Redding later said: "I probably would have been either out in the first inning or the second or the third. But my confidence in myself is high, higher than it's been in the past, and I know situations now where I can handle that stuff. So after the first, I know these guys are a good-hitting team, but the way we've been playing the last weekend here, I knew if I kept the score relatively close we'd probably run into a couple runs ourselves."

Redding also got some advice from his teammates.

Fellow pitcher Jason Bergmann, after that first inning, shared some ideas with Redding on how to recharge.

The question was, how do you battle back?

"It was just one of those days I try to talk to the younger guys about," Redding said. "You're gonna have them. You know, I almost kind of sat down after the first inning and remembered what I told John [Lannan] in his last start -- when he went back out there [after a tough inning]: Start over again, find a building block and work off that. And these guys give me advice as well. . . . I think that's what it takes to have the camaraderie and atmosphere to be the way it is."

Just as the offense caught its groove, Redding improved. Fourth inning, he set Colorado down 1-2-3. Fifth inning, he did it again, using a behind-the-back magic trick to snare a one-hop grounder hit by Matt Holliday back to the mound.

Meanwhile, Washington battered Cook with a spin-cycle of productivity. Take the third inning, for instance. Jesús Flores's cresting left field home run in the second only started the drumbeat. In the third, the first five Washington hitters reached base -- one on a walk, two on fielder's choice plays that involved run-allowing throwing errors. Cook crumbled. He threw a wild pitch. He fielded a Willie Harris bunt, whirled to throw for an out at third and instead fired into left field, allowing two runs to score.

The Nationals finished off Cook in the sixth. Then, they finished off any drama in the game with some security runs in the eighth, both coming on a Harris home run to right, lifting them to a 9-4 lead. When it ended, Washington had 14 hits, a total the team has topped just three times this year. Emilio Bonifacio continued his dazzling start, going 3 for 5 with two runs. Only two starters failed to get hits, and one of them, Austin Kearns, reached base with two walks and a hit by pitch.

"It's unbelievable," Redding later said. "The two new guys [Bonifacio and Alberto González] are bringing a positive, young energetic atmosphere, and they want to perform well at this level.

"Everybody is playing with a lot of energy."

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