Stymied for five innings by Atlanta right-hander Kenshin Kawakami, the Nats lineup sprang to life in the bottom of the sixth and took the lead, 4-3.
Washington was having all kinds of trouble figuring out Kawakami in the early going, managing just one hit between the third and fifth innings. But Adam Dunn ignited the ballpark leading off the sixth with a towering home run into the green grass batter’s eye behind center field. That was Dunn’s fourth homer of the season, and the blast extended his streak of reaching base successfully to 13 games. Yes, he’s reached in every game this year.
The hits kept on coming. Elijah Dukes scorched a ball at Chipper Jones, who couldn’t come up with it and was charged with an error. Austin Kearns then hit a sinking liner to left field. Matt Diaz came charging in and tried to make a sliding catch, but the ball squirted underneath his glove and rolled to the warning track. Dukes scored, Kearns wound up on third base with a triple, and the Nats remained in business.
Finally showing that killer instinct to turn a nice inning into a big inning, pinch-hitter Josh Willingham roped a two-out single to left, scoring Kearns and giving the Nats the lead for the first time tonight.
The beneficiary of it all is Shairon Martis, who is now in line for his second win of the season. After a shaky first inning in which he allowed three runs, the rookie right-hander held the Braves scoreless after that. He departed after the sixth having allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits. That’s the fifth quality start in the last six games by the Nats rotation. A nice turnaround from the first week of the season.
Now it’s up to the bullpen to hang onto the lead. Mike Hinckley on for the seventh. With Joe Beimel on the DL, who gets the ball for the eighth? Kip Wells? Garrett Mock? Stay tuned.