- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

For a team mired in last place in the National League East, the Washington Nationals certainly are not quitting.

Austin Kearns drilled a bases-loaded, eighth-inning double to the gap in right field that drove in two runs and helped lead the Nationals to a three-game sweep over the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 5-3 victory before 30,771 yesterday at RFK Stadium. The win was the team’s fourth straight, all when trailing by two or more runs through seven innings.

The last team to win four consecutive games while trailing by two or more runs after seven innings was the 1923 New York Giants from June 25 to 28.

Kearns delivered the eventual game-winning hit for the second straight game. In Saturday’s nightcap of the Nationals first-ever home doubleheader, he belted a two-run shot off Livan Hernandez in the eighth to give them a 4-3 lead. Kearns now has 13 RBI in his last 11 games.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when there is an opportunity like that, I’m going to be up there and I don’t care if I’m in a slump or if I’ve been swinging the bat well,” said Kearns, who went 2-for-4 with three RBI. “It’s just something you build on and hopefully carry it over.”

The Nationals (59-77) are starting to play like there’s more to them than just being a spoiler.

“The main thing what they can get out of this is you don’t ever give up,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “As long as you have an out left, you have a chance to win a ballgame. That’s a good lesson for a young ballclub, or a ballclub with a lot of young players on it: Just keep battling, keep battling, keep battling and good things can happen to and for you.”

Kearns, who played despite having a tight right groin, drove in the first run with a first-inning single to right field that scored Alfonso Soriano.

The Nationals did not score another run until their four-run eighth. Diamondbacks starter Brandon Webb had retired 13 straight until newly acquired outfielder Nook Logan led off with a drag-bunt single. Logan used his blazing speed to beat the throw to first, and the Nationals had their first baserunner since a Ryan Zimmerman infield single in the third.

“I’ve been working on it. I’ve been working on it the past four years,” the switch-hitting Logan said of his bunting ability from the left side of the plate.

After Ryan Church walked, Logan scored on a Felipe Lopez single. Zimmerman singled home the tying run before Kearns doubled home two.

Nationals starter Tony Armas Jr. allowed three runs on four hits in 61/3 innings in his longest outing since working seven innings against the New York Mets on Aug. 13.

Armas’ lack of consistency has frustrated the Nationals this season. His previous two outings had lasted 12/3 and 31/3 innings. In those starts, he had allowed 13 runs (10 earned) on 18 hits. Yesterday he pitched well enough to give his team a chance to win.

“I’ll take that outing,” said Armas, who received a no-decision for his effort. “They had a very good pitcher out there in Webb, so I had to keep the game close. It was a tough game. It wasn’t easy. I had better luck today.”

Right-hander Jon Rauch picked up his first career save by pitching a perfect ninth inning. Regular closer Chad Cordero was unavailable after having pitched in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, when he picked up a win and a save.

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