Braves vs. Nationals
When: 7:05 tonight
Where: Washington D.C.
Pitchers: Braves, RHP Jair Jurrjens (2-1, 2.05); Nationals, LHP John Lannan (0-2, 6.46)
TV, radio: SportSouth; 102.9 FM
Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com, 404-577-9100
Web site: www.atlantabraves.com
WASHINGTON — Thanks to a suddenly stout bullpen, the Washington Nationals finally have their first winning streak of 2009.
Adam Dunn homered, Washington’s beleaguered relievers tossed three scoreless innings for the second day in a row and the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 Tuesday night for their second consecutive victory.
After opening the season 0-7, then dropping to 1-10, Washington is 3-10. Atlanta has lost five of six games.
Played following a 61-minute rain delay, this game was filled with all sorts of miscues: three errors, other misplays in the field, a few running mistakes, failed sacrifice bunt attempts and more.
Shairon Martis (2-0) went six innings and gave up three runs — two earned.
Then came the procession of Nationals relievers: Mike Hinckley went 1 2-3 innings, Julian Tavarez got one out, and closer Joel Hanrahan had an adventurous ninth. But after a walk and double put two runners on with none out, Hanrahan got the next three batters. He has converted his last two save chances after blowing his first two of the season.
The Nationals gave away ninth-inning leads Friday, Saturday and Sunday against the Marlins, precipitating a revamping of Washington’s relief corps. And while Hinckley, Tavarez and Hanrahan were not part of the roster moves, they appear to have gotten the message.
Martis worked his way in and out of trouble — his lone 1-2-3 inning was the second — but he only allowed runs in the first. He got himself in a tight spot with two outs by walking Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, who was fitted for a new contact lens Tuesday after being bothered by blurred vision in his left eye.
Casey Kotchman delivered an RBI double to right-center. Jeff Francoeur then hit a sharp groundball that shortstop Alberto Gonzalez grabbed at the edge of the outfield grass. Gonzalez’s throw got past first baseman Nick Johnson, and two runs scored on the play. Francoeur was credited with an RBI single; Gonzalez was charged with a throwing error that allowed the second run, and Atlanta led 3-0.
The Nationals, meanwhile, figured out a way to take two doubles, a single and a walk in the second inning and turn it all into only one run. It didn’t help that after Elijah Dukes led off with a double, he was thrown out trying to steal third. Jesus Flores’ RBI double made it 3-1.
Atlanta starter Kenshin Kawakami (1-2) left after failing to record an out in the sixth. Dunn led off with his fourth homer, a shot to straightaway center off a 90 mph pitch that cut Washington’s deficit to 3-2.
Dukes reached on third baseman Jones’ fielding error, and Austin Kearns followed with a sinking liner that skipped past left fielder Matt Diaz for an RBI triple that tied things 3-all.
Reliever Jeff Bennett entered and got two outs, before giving up the go-ahead run on pinch-hitter Josh Willingham’s single to left.
Dukes was hardly the only player who encountered problems on the basepaths.
In the fifth, Washington’s Johnson slid about 10 feet too early when he was running from first to second on what turned into a 6-4-3 double play. In the sixth, Atlanta’s Jordan Schafer doubled to left-center, rounding second and heading toward third as Dukes slid when he arrived at the ball. Schafer tried to get back to second base, but Dukes threw a strike to Gonzalez, who relayed to second baseman Anderson Hernandez for the tag on an 8-6-4 putout.
And Atlanta’s seventh ended when Martin Prado was thrown out at third by catcher Jesus Flores after trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt with Jones at bat.Notes: Nationals 1B Dmitri Young pulled himself out of a game at extended spring training in Florida after five innings Monday, but the team wasn’t sure exactly why. "The report I got was he didn’t feel well," acting GM Mike Rizzo said. ... Washington SS Cristian Guzman and INF-OF Willie Harris are on target for coming off the DL next week, Rizzo said. ... Washington put LHP Joe Beimel on the 15-day DL with a hip injury and recalled RHP Saul Rivera from Triple-A Syracuse just two days after he was sent to the minors. Rivera hadn’t even left town yet. Beimel is the seventh Nationals player to go on the DL already. "I don’t believe in negative stuff," manager Manny Acta said, "but I was wondering if somebody buried a Red Cross jersey here before they built this stadium because it’s kind of, I don’t know, weird."