BALTIMORE — A benefit of interleague play for the Washington Nationals is a road series just a short bus ride away every year to provide a temporary respite to the typical travel grind.
Another is the opportunity to play three games at cozy Camden Yards.
Ryan Church, Ryan Zimmerman and Brian Schneider smacked home runs — all off Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera — as the Nationals earned a 7-4 victory before an announced crowd of 21,151.
Chad Cordero extricated himself from a one-out jam created by reliever Jesus Colome, inducing a double play grounder to earn his 100th career save and ninth of the season.
“Just to be able to do that and get to 100 saves is pretty cool,” said Cordero, who became the second-youngest player (behind Francisco Rodriguez) to reach the plateau.
Micah Bowie (3-2) pitched six solid innings in his longest start since 1999 as the Nationals (27-37) moved within a victory of winning their fourth straight road series.
Washington entered the series after winning two of three at Minnesota and got off to a promising start against the Orioles (29-35), who have fallen a season-worst six games under .500 and assumed sole possession of last place in the AL East for the first time since the second week of the season.
The Nationals’ place in their division is the same, but in the last month they have produced occasional offensive spurts to complement a patchwork pitching staff that has exceeded expectations in the face of injuries to four starting pitchers.
Such was the case again last night.
Rather than rely upon a single outburst, Washington applied steady pressure to Cabrera (5-7) throughout his stint. The Nationals took the lead permanently with a two-out rally in the fourth ignited by Ryan Langerhans’ infield single.
Cristian Guzman — moved into the leadoff role yesterday by manager Manny Acta in a flip-flop with the slumping Felipe Lopez— then walked, setting up Lopez to rip a two-run double down the line in left and snap an 0-for-19 skid.
Lopez also walked three times, drawing one with two outs just before Zimmerman’s home run in the third.
“We made a point to let Felipe know that was great, the at-bat that he had,” Acta said.
Those weren’t the only flurries for the Nationals, who chased Cabrera the next inning. Cabrera again set down the first two hitters, only to walk Church. Schneider then deposited the first pitch into the right field seats, ending Cabrera’s night and staking Washington to a 7-3 lead.
“They feel like if they hit a ball good it’s going to go out of the park, while at home you have pretty much have to get it all or hit the ball down the line,” Acta said. “They feel good on the road.