Nats break out against Brewers

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On the day before the All-Star break, the Washington Nationals registered their biggest inning of the first half of the season.

Ryan Zimmerman’s two-run homer and Ronnie Belliard’s three-run double were part of a six-run sixth for the Nationals in their 7-2 victory over Milwaukee in front of 20,637 at steamy RFK Stadium. Washington had scored only six runs once in its previous 17 games.

“We’re capable of doing stuff like this,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “Not every single day. We just need to get the guys that are struggling a little bit going.”

In all, the Nationals sent 11 men to the plate while coming from behind to take control of the game on their way to winning the series. After scoring more than three runs only once in 13 games entering the weekend, Washington has scored five and seven runs in a pair of wins against the National League Central leaders.

The beneficiary was starter Tim Redding (1-1), who picked up his first win since 2004. The right-hander, called up from Class AAA Columbus because of Micah Bowie’s injury, allowed two runs over six innings. The 29-year-old left the game after the sixth inning, in which he allowed Milwaukee to take a 2-1 lead on Prince Fielder’s two-run double.

“You come out of the game just giving up two runs in the top of the sixth, and you have a one-run deficit, and all of a sudden the team rallies around and scores six,” said Redding, whose career was sidetracked by shoulder surgery in 2005. “That’s the type of talent we have around here.”

Chris Capuano (5-6) took the loss after losing control and walking three batters in the sixth. The left-hander is now winless in his last eight starts.

The Nationals‘ eruption came with All-Star slugger Dmitri Young getting the day off before heading to San Francisco for the midsummer classic. Washington, which lost nine of 11 going into Saturday night’s game, has a winning streak for the first time since a three-game sweep of Baltimore on June 12-14. It was also the first time starting pitchers (Jason Simontacchi on Saturday) have won back-to-back games since June 8-9.

Zimmerman and Felipe Lopez each had two hits, while Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun had three hits.

The game changed in the sixth when D’Angelo Jimenez, who has a .043 batting average, battled back from a 0-2 count to draw a leadoff walk. Zimmerman thought about bunting and watched a change-up go by for a ball. The third baseman figured another off-speed pitch was on the way as Capuano hoped to entice Zimmerman into a ground ball and double play.

He was right and deposited the 1-1 offering into the bullpen beyond the left-field wall to give Washington a 3-2 lead.

“It was just a change-up that was up a little bit,” Zimmerman said of his 14th homer. “It was away a little bit. I thought it would short-hop the wall, and it would be a double.”

Austin Kearns then walked before Tony Batista singled and Lopez, who had homered in the second inning, walked to load the bases. Ryan Church’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2. Jesus Flores’ infield single again loaded the bases to end Capuano’s outing.

Belliard, pinch hitting for Redding, greeted Matt Wise with a three-run double that landed just short of the warning track in left-center. At that point, the Nationals led 7-2 after the six-run frenzy.

“We are finally swinging the bats a little bit,” Kearns said. “I wish we were playing tomorrow.”

Relievers Ray King, Luis Ayala and Chad Cordero combined to pitch three scoreless innings to preserve the win.

“It is always better finishing on a winning note,” said Acta, whose team has four days off before resuming the season Friday in Florida.

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