- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2005

When the Washington Nationals came off the field at RFK Stadium yesterday after a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the crowd of 37,170 gave the team a standing ovation. Manager Frank Robinson even tipped his cap to the fans. What a glorious homestand it was.

A little more than two weeks after looking like a team on the verge of collapse, the Nationals concluded a 13-game homestand in which they lost only once. The latest victory was their 10th straight, tying the franchise record and becoming the longest winning streak in the National League this season.

Fifteen days ago, the Nationals (37-26) limped home after seven losses in a nine-game road trip that left the team at .500.

“We said yesterday that nobody could see this coming,” manager Frank Robinson said of a stretch that brought the Nationals’ home record to a major league-best 24-9. “It was a terrific homestand, and you have to give the players a lot of credit. It starts with the pitching and defense and timely hitting.”

Before taking off on a nine-game, 11-day trip that starts against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., tonight, the Nationals finished off their third consecutive three-game sweep.

Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. (3-3) pitched five shutout innings, and newly acquired second baseman Junior Spivey hit a two-run homer in the second inning for his first hit with the team. Chad Cordero pitched a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 19th save.

The Nationals remain 1 games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Phillies, who also finished a 12-1 homestand, in the National League East. Overall, Washington has won 13 of 14, and the 10-game streak equals the New York Yankees for the longest in the majors this season. Their only loss was 5-4 to Atlanta’s John Smoltz on June1.

On the homestand, the Nationals’ starters went 6-0 with a 2.03 ERA. Armas, who has allowed only three runs in his last three starts combined, improved to 3-0 at RFK this season and struck out a season-high six batters.

Armas had to work for the win. By the end of the third, he had thrown 70 pitches. Thirteen of those came against the second batter he faced, Jeremy Reed, who walked after fouling off six pitches in a row.

“They were fouling off everything. It was tough,” said Armas, who threw 107 pitches, including 70 strikes. “I didn’t feel like I was wild. I knew I was getting a lot of foul balls. I didn’t let it bother me.”

Spivey, acquired Friday from the Milwaukee Brewers for right-hander Tomo Ohka, made a strong impression in his second start and third at-bat as a National. With Nick Johnson on third and one out, he homered into the left-field bullpen off Mariners starter Ryan Franklin (2-8) to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.

“I believe it was a sinker — I’m not sure,” Spivey said. “[It was] the first pitch. I saw it well and put a good swing on it. I was excited to finally get that hit out of the way and get on a roll. Unfortunately, I had three strikeouts behind it.”

The Nationals stretched their lead to 3-0 on a Jamey Carroll bloop single to left-center that scored Vinny Castilla from second base in the fourth.

For just the second time on the homestand, the Nationals did not need to come from behind to win.

The Mariners (26-35) scored both of their runs off Gary Majewski. With one out in the sixth, pinch hitter Greg Dobbs doubled into the left-center field gap to score Willie Bloomquist, who had singled. In the seventh, Raul Ibanez hit a one-hop double off the left-center field wall to score Reed.


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