- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2007

MIAMI — The Washington Nationals were plagued by offensive struggles much of the first half of the season. Last night proved quite the opening act for the second half.

The Nationals crafted a big lead with a six-run fourth inning and held on to win a 14-10 slugfest with the Florida Marlins in front of 11,438 at Dolphin Stadium.

“We’re not expecting this every day, but we had some good at-bats,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “Not only the hits, but we worked the count and got some walks, some very important walks. It wasn’t the prettiest game but we won, and that’s the bottom line.”

It was a wild night in South Florida. The 14 runs scored by the Nationals are the most since the franchise moved to the District, and the 17 hits were a season high. Six runs in the fourth inning also matched a season-best, which the team set in its last game Sunday against the Brewers.

The two teams combined for 30 hits, 13 walks and 12 different pitchers. Florida hit three home runs, including a pair of three-run shots in a losing effort that took nearly 3½ hours to complete.

Washington right fielder Austin Kearns entered the game with only eight RBI since June 1 and made three of the team’s six outs in the fourth and fifth innings. By the time the game ended, Kearns had a pair of hits and three RBI.

Kearns wasn’t the only slumping Washington hitter to produce last night. Leadoff hitter Nook Logan went 2-for-4 with a triple, a pair of walks and four runs scored. Felipe Lopez also had a pair of hits and drove in two runs. He also made the defensive play of the night, throwing out Hanley Ramirez from his butt at shortstop.

“It’s fun when you score runs,” Logan said. “We’ve been struggling the past couple of weeks, but we’re going to put that behind us and start fresh.”

Ryan Zimmerman had only one hit, but walked three times. He hit the farthest ball of the night to deep left-center, but Florida center fielder Alfredo Amezaga had enough room to track it down thanks to a notch in the wall that extends 434 feet from home plate.

“That is probably the only time when we’re on the road that I have wished I was at home,” Zimmerman said. “I felt good up there. I took some walks and finally laid off some pitches that I was swinging at in the first half. You know, I’m learning. I’m growing up.”

Washington plated runs in the second and third innings, but the Nationals blew it open in the fourth.

Florida starter Dontrelle Willis was wild in the inning both to the plate and fielding his position. He started the rally by fielding a ground ball from Ryan Church and throwing it into right field for an error.

Lopez singled in Church and eventually scored on one of two passed balls charged to Miguel Olivo, though both easily could have been ruled wild pitches. After Lopez singled, Willis walked three straight batters, including pitcher Jason Bergmann who was trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

Ronnie Belliard swung at the first two pitches after the walks and flew out to shallow right field, but Zimmerman scored one run with a single to left and Dmitri Young delivered the big blow — a three-run double that chased Willis and gave the Nationals an 8-1 advantage.

Washington sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning, marking the third straight game the team has batted around in an inning. It is the first time it has done so since May 4, 5 and 7 of 2005.

The Nationals tacked on three more runs in the fifth inning when Lopez and Belliard singled in runs and Young walked with the bases loaded. Still, it was not enough to get Bergmann, who has often been plagued by poor run support, his second win of the season.

Bergmann couldn’t avoid the long ball and didn’t last the necessary five innings to pick up the win.

Amezaga’s three-run homer highlighted a five-run fourth for the Marlins. After Bergmann gave up a single and a walk in the fifth inning, he got a visit at the mound from Acta.

The next batter, Josh Willingham, belted a three-run shot to left and Acta made another trip to the mound to pull Bergmann. He entered the game with a 3.47 ERA but has given up at least five runs in three of his seven starts away from RFK Stadium.

By the time Bergmann’s evening was finished, he was charged with eight runs on seven hits and four walks in 41/3 innings. In his last three home starts, Bergmann has allowed only four runs over a span of 201/3 innings.

“I am very disappointed in myself,” Bergmann said. “But there’s got to be a reason why. Fastball control was a big reason. It could have been the break, it could have been Friday the 13th, it could have been a lot of things. It just didn’t happen out there today.”

Note — Catcher Brian Schneider left the game with a right knee bruise after a taking a foul ball of the inside of his knee. He said after the game he expects to play today.

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