- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2008

MIAMI — In this meandering start to the 2008 season, when the Washington Nationals have searched in vain for anything resembling consistency, they got another reminder last night of what’s looking like the surest thing they have right now.

Few expected Tim Redding to be the Nationals pitcher most capable of winning a game every five days. But after another impressive start against the Florida Marlins, it’s clear that’s exactly what he is.

The right-hander won the game, giving up four runs on three hits and one walk in six innings. Redding (3-1) also set a new career high in strikeouts with 10 as the Nationals ended a three-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over the Marlins last night in font of 13,279.

Redding needed just 73 pitches to break his old single-game strikeout high of eight. He was clocked in the low 90s on the Dolphin Stadium radar gun and had hitters guessing at his slider, curveball and change-up all night.

“The fastball was good, but it helped me throw my slider down and away for strikes and get swings and misses,” Redding said. “If I could carbon copy this [start] 30 more times, I would. That’s the way I want to throw.”

His only mistakes were letting shortstop Hanley Ramirez on base twice — which he paid for both times when Ramirez stole second and eventually scored — and throwing a belt-high fastball to Josh Willingham in the sixth inning. The left fielder swatted it into the left-field stands, giving the Marlins a 4-3 lead and nearly ensuring all of Redding’s strikeouts wouldn’t net him a win.

He was almost the second Nationals pitcher in as many days to post double-digit strikeouts without registering a decision, following John Lannan’s 11 against the Mets on Thursday night.

This time, however, Redding left with a win — the big difference being Washington’s offense responded when it needed to.

The Nationals offense gave Redding a 3-0 lead before he threw a pitch. Felipe Lopez began his first day in the leadoff spot with a double. Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman then drew back-to-back walks, and all three batters scored later in the inning.

After Redding surrendered the lead in the sixth, Washington used that same formula to get it right back in the seventh: Lopez and Guzman produced a hit and a walk, Zimmerman reached first on a fielder’s choice (albeit one that saw Johnny Estrada thrown out at home) and Nick Johnson delivered the clutch hit the Nationals have needed for weeks.

After working Taylor Tankersley to a 2-2 count, Johnson laid off a fastball on the outside corner for ball three. Then, when Tankersley had to come over the middle, Johnson hit a fastball to the right-field corner for a bases-clearing double that gave Washington a 6-4 lead.

“Not that many guys [would take that pitch], not only on our team but a lot of teams,” manager Manny Acta said. “That’s a tough pitch to lay off on 2-2 with the bases loaded. But that’s him. He’s got great patience at the plate. And when you have patience, you’re going to get your pitch to hit.”

The Nationals (5-12) have another reason to be optimistic today: They get Shawn Hill — whom they planned to be their No. 1 starter — back from the disabled list today. The right-hander will make his first start of the year, and Washington has a chance to win a series for the first time since it took two out of three from Philadelphia from March 31 to April 3.

There are a lot of variables to sort out, like whether Hill can follow what Lannan and Redding did the last two days, whether those two pitchers can stay consistent and whether Washington’s offense will stay out of hibernation.

But for the first time in several weeks, there are also legitimate signs of a foundation.

“The guys picked me up, and not just myself, but picked the team up,” Redding said. “I knew I had to come in and try and pick the guys up. Fortunately, they were able to put three on the board and give me a little rest. They pulled it out.”

SEEN AND HEARD AT DOLPHIN STADIUM

MIAMI — The Nationals arrived in Florida at about 5 a.m. yesterday after a 14-inning loss to the Mets, and more than a few players dragged in the clubhouse before the game with the Marlins.

Manager Manny Acta said he slept a couple of hours on the plane and hoped players caught up on some rest, too. The lack of sleep didn’t seem to hurt too much, though.

The Nationals collected two fewer hits in the first five innings of last night’s game than they did in 14 innings Thursday.

BY THE NUMBERS

10 Strikeouts that Tim Redding posted in six innings last night.

TODAY’S GAME

Nationals RHP Shawn Hill Record, ERA: (0-0, )

Marlins RHP Burke Badenhop Record, ERA: (0-1, 6.00)

Time: 7:10 p.m. TV: MASN2

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