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Flores, Nats Get Second Win in a Row

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman throws out Arizona Diamondbacks' Josh Wilson during the sixth inning of an MLB baseball game Friday, May 8, 2009 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman throws out Arizona Diamondbacks' Josh Wilson during the sixth inning of an MLB baseball game Friday, May 8, 2009 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) (Matt York - AP)

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By Jack Magruder
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 9, 2009; 12:37 AM

PHOENIX -- The Nationals crashed another party Friday. A night after ending the Los Angeles Dodgers' major league record 13-game home winning streak to open a season, they ruined new Arizona manager A.J. Hinch's first game Friday.

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Credit the usual suspects in the 5-4 victory, the Nationals' second straight road victory, a season first. Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 26 games, the longest in the majors this season, Cristian Guzmán crept closer to .400 with two more hits and right-hander Shairon Martis improved to 4-0.

The revamped bullpen, meanwhile, handed Martis and the rest of the starting rotation another reason to believe, giving up one run in 3 2/3 innings. Designated closer Kip Wells finished up for the second night in a row, getting his first major league save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Wells finished with a flourish, striking out Arizona 3-4 hitters Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds to end the game. He threw three balls to Conor Jackson before recovering to get him to flyout to open the inning.

"You know you don't have a save, and you could see that. My first several pitches were errant. You're trying to harness your adrenaline and relax.

Then I got into a rhythm and got three outs. Some nights you are a little more amped up than others," said Wells, who has 265 career appearances.

"If you challenge guys with strikes, you have a chance to get outs. If you get behind, you never know."

The Nationals (9-18) have won four out of five.

Zimmerman took the suspense out of his hitting streak when he singled to left field in the first inning, but Arizona scored first, when Felipe López doubled and came home on a flyout and a groundout. López had three hits.

The Nationals took a lead they never lost in the second. After Jesús Flores walked, Martis set up the Nationals' two-run second inning with a two-out single to left field off right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, who has the burden of being compared to injured Brandon Webb every time he takes the mound. Webb, who has finished second, second and first in the previous three NL Cy Young Award ballots, is expected to miss another month with shoulder soreness, and Petit has taken his place in the rotation, with less success.

Guzmán followed Martis's single with a line drive off the right field fence that with an unusual carom turned into a triple for a 2-1 lead.

Adam Dunn homered in the third and Flores homered in the fourth off Petit, who has given up eight homers in 24 2/3 innings this season and has an 8.03 ERA.

"We're getting really good pitching that's keeping us in ballgames," Dunn said. "Now, instead of getting the big hit that beats us, we're getting the big out."

Martis, meanwhile, gave up nine hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings but made pitches when he needed them most. Holding a 3-1 lead in the third inning, Martis gave up a leadoff infield single to López and a one-out walk to Justin Upton before striking out Mark Reynolds on a breaking ball and getting Josh Whitesell to fly to left.

After López singled and Chris Young tripled him home to cut the Nationals' lead to 4-2 in the fifth, Martis struck out Upton with a fastball and Reynolds on another breaking ball before Whitesell flew to right, extending the Diamondbacks' streak to 0 for 36 with runners in scoring position.

"He did another nice job for us, especially when he worked his way out of that jam," Manager Manny Acta said. "He's been terrific for his age."

Flores added an RBI single for a 5-2 lead in the sixth, just enough, thanks to some defense from Zimmerman, who speared a one-hopper by Miguel Montero to prevent the tying run from scoring in the seventh, then made a nice play on a chopper in the eighth.

"We played a clean game today," Zimmerman said. "We're starting to build some confidence. We got some runs, got ahead, and the bullpen is starting to do a pretty decent job. Defense and pitching win games. That's a goal of ours, to become better defensively as a team."

If Zimmerman finishes the road trip with hits in the last two games in Arizona, he will be halfway to Joe DiMaggio's major league record.

"To expect to do anything monumental is the wrong mind-set," he said. "I'm farther than I thought I would get."


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