- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Washington Nationals finally put an end to a frustrating losing streak last night. Yet even that welcome development brought with it another type of setback.

The Nationals upended Florida 6-0 before 23,006 at RFK Stadium to snap an eight-game skid despite the loss of starter Shawn Hill to a right elbow injury after five no-hit innings.

Team doctor Ben Shaffer said Hill would be shut down for at least seven to 10 days after suffering pain on the inside of his elbow.

Manager Manny Acta said no decision about Hill’s status would be made until the right-hander has an MRI exam on Monday, but Hill said he was “99 percent sure” he would eventually land on the disabled list.

Hill’s troubles tempered the first victory this month for Washington (10-25), which didn’t yield a hit until Josh Willingham’s leadoff single in the seventh.

“It’s a sour taste, even after snapping the losing streak and winning a great ballgame,” Acta said. “The kid’s been doing so great for us.”

It was the latest injury to the Nationals’ rotation. John Patterson, the presumptive staff ace at the start of the season, went on the disabled list Sunday with right elbow and biceps soreness. Jerome Williams (left ankle sprain) is expected to come off the disabled list to start Tuesday’s game against Atlanta.

The 26-year-old Hill had other injury issues this year, but none with his right elbow. He complained of tightness in his right forearm in spring training, an ailment not believed to be a factor in last night’s injury.

He also dived into third base and jammed his left shoulder April 20 at Florida, an injury he aggravated last week at San Diego. Hill said he started feeling some pain during last weekend’s series in Chicago.

“This I think will go away fairly quickly,” Hill said of the elbow pain. “I think the issue is [the left shoulder] and making sure it is strong and making sure my mechanics are sound. It didn’t bother me all spring training, all April. Once I messed it up, it opened me and put stress on the elbow.”

Hill has an extensive history of elbow problems. He missed the entire 2005 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was shut down after six starts last year and did not pitch after June 28 because of elbow soreness.

“It’s not nearly as bad [as last year],” Hill said. “If it’s different, I can’t really say yet. It’s not prolonged yet. Monday, we’ll take a look at it and see what’s going on. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, but we’re going to play it safe.”

Hill (3-3) was masterful before departing, striking out five in the first three innings. He effectively mixed his off-speed pitches, confusing an aggressive Marlins lineup that fans at a prolific rate.

Florida didn’t struggle so badly the second time through the order, but couldn’t manage anything more than a pair of walks to start the fifth.

“He looked good,” Acta said. “I think everybody around the league knows they have their work cut out for them when this guy is out there.”

Acta asked his starter if he was feeling pain after the fifth, and Hill conceded he was. After Hill warmed up to start the sixth, Acta and assistant athletic trainer Mike McGowan walked to the mound and soon determined Hill’s night was finished.

Hill’s troubles overshadowed Washington’s most prolific offensive performance in weeks. The Nationals hadn’t scored more than four runs in their last 15 outings, and they accrued their largest hit total (15) since April 20.

The Nationals scored in the first with some assistance from Florida. Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman had consecutive singles off starter Scott Olsen (3-3), and Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera’s errant throw veered into the camera well. Ryan Church then pulled a grounder to the right side to score Guzman.

The Nationals added three runs in the sixth — including Brian Schneider’s near-home run to right that Florida’s Reggie Abercrombie tugged back into the park to turn it into an RBI double.

Both Guzman and Schneider had three hits for Washington, which has scored at least six runs against Florida four times and once against the rest of the league.

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