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Washington Nationals batter Tim Lincecum in 7-3 win over San Francisco Giants

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010; 2:20 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- AT&T Park can feel spooky some nights, when fog rolls off San Francisco Bay, the moon glows in a starless sky and speakers ring out The Doors' "Light My Fire," the song Tim Lincecum chooses to blare when he throws his first warmup pitches. It's enough to make you think something odd might happen, the exact opposite of what you expect.

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Strange days have found the Washington Nationals. On Wednesday night they opposed Lincecum, owner of two Cy Young Awards, with Luis Atilano, owner of six career starts. Against every available slice of logic, the Nationals thumped the San Francisco Giants, 7-3, before 30,233.

The Nationals broke their team-wide funk with a rookie starting against perhaps the best pitcher on the planet, and a team that has lost 205 games the past two years clawed back above by .500 in the middle of the most grueling portion of its schedule. The Reverse Lock came through.

"That's why we play the games, you know?" Manager Jim Riggleman said. "If you just figure this or that before the season starts, before a series starts, before a game starts, you're going to take a lot of things for granted. That's why you play the games."

The Nationals thrashed Lincecum for 4 2/3 innings, his shortest start since he went three innings on April 7, 2009. Washington smacked six hits, drew five walks and became the second team in the past three seasons to score six runs off Lincecum. The Giants' ace walked off the field in the middle of the fifth, an unfamiliar indignity, the final act of his first loss this season.

"He didn't much have much of curveball," said shortstop Ian Desmond, who went 2 for 4 with three RBI. "I've never seen him when he's filthy, but it didn't seem like he had his electric stuff tonight."

Meanwhile, Atilano induced a heap of harmless groundballs in 5 1/3 innings, surrendering four hits and two earned runs. He earned his fourth win -- the first Nats starter to pick up a 'W' since he did it May 10 -- and authored the Nationals' most improbable toppling of an opposing ace since Levale Speigner beat reigning Cy Young winner Johan Santana and the Minnesota Twins in June 2007.

Atilano knew which pitcher he was facing, but he blocked it out of his thoughts. "I was only focused on my pitching," Atilano said. "I wasn't looking to that."

In his previous start, Atilano allowed six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

"I was getting a little pissed off at myself," Atilano said. "The way I was pitching is not the way that I pitch."

Said Desmond: "I kind of expected Luis to come out and pitch good. It was about time for him to come out and really carve some people up."

One day after Todd Wellemeyer rendered their bats impotent, the Nationals reached base 11 times against Lincecum as he recorded 14 outs. In the third inning, Nyjer Morgan, a San Franciscan, belted the first hit against Lincecum, a line drive to left field.


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