Nationals beat Royals, 2-1, to end six-game losing streak
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The Washington Nationals will play more appealing and more attractive baseball games this year, but few will feel as necessary or satisfying. For the first time in a week, the Nationals poured out of their dugout after a game, lined up on the infield and shook hands. On Monday night, only that mattered.
Their hitting slump remaining intact, and the tying run stood 90 feet from home with one out in the ninth. So what? The Nationals, with seven strong innings from Liván Hernández, had shed their six-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Cosmetic concerns could be solved another day. The victory, set against an announced attendance of 13,592 and acres of empty blue seats at Nationals Park, was enough.
"Yeah, we needed it," closer Matt Capps said. "Any win is a good win. But after losing six in a row, this one feels a little better."
Hernández allowed one run, scattering eight hits and a walk, while Tyler Clippard and Capps polished off the game. The Nationals managed only four hits, but home runs by Michael Morse, who is emerging as a force whenever he plays, and Cristian Guzmán, who had not hit a homer in 340 at-bats, provided the difference. Catcher Iván Rodríguez erased three base runners, including a crucial pickoff in the seventh.
The Nationals narrowly escaped in the ninth, when former National José Guillén led off with a single to center and Mike Aviles's hit-and-run single put runners on first and third with one out. Capps, who leads the league in saves and, perhaps, cause for antacid sales, pitched as if unfazed, like he always does.
He struck out Yuniesky Betancourt looking then worked a 1-2 count to pinch hitter Mitch Maier, who had fouled off two outside pitches. Rodríguez trotted to the mound and put his arm around Capps.
"We've got to come in," Rodríguez told him. "When we come in, you have to come in."
Capps fired a 95-mph fastball over the inside corner. Maier froze as strike three whizzed by.
"He threw it perfect," Rodríguez said.
Capps had his 21st save on three looking strikeouts, and the Nats had an elusive victory. It started with Morse in the second inning. He launched a solo home run deep over the visitors' bullpen in left field, five or six rows from landing on the concrete concourse.
"It was a good one," said Morse, smiling as he wore the silver Elvis wig the Nationals give their appointed player of the game. "It felt really good off the bat. It was loud."