- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 10, 2009

PHOENIX | Just when it looked like the Washington Nationals had discovered a new closer, a familiar face returned to finish off their latest tense victory.

Despite handing the ball to Kip Wells at the start of the ninth inning Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Manny Acta was forced to turn to former closer Joel Hanrahan to bail his team out and preserve a 2-1 win at Chase Field.

Wells, who notched his first career save in 11 years as a professional Friday night, was given a chance to earn No. 2 on Saturday with his team up two runs. But he walked two batters and allowed a run-scoring double with two outs, leaving the tying runner on third base and forcing Acta to bring in Hanrahan.

Hanrahan, who opened the season as the closer but was demoted after blowing three of his first five opportunities, entered in a pressure-packed situation but managed to strike out pinch hitter Chad Tracy swinging at a 1-2 slider to end the game.

“I think it can help his confidence, because he wasn’t the only guy left in the bullpen,” Acta said. “We went to him with the guy who’s already closed a couple games for us on the mound. We went to him in a key situation… and he came up big.”

Hanrahan, who has shown signs of improvement since his demotion, was simply happy to deliver in a key spot again.

“I don’t know if that was a confidence-booster, but it felt good,” he said. “To come in there in a tight situation like that and be able to get that strikeout… it’s good to get the victory for us.”

Flores banged up

Catcher Jesus Flores suffered a bruised right shoulder when he was struck by a hard foul ball off the bat of Chris Young in the seventh inning.

Flores remained in the game and even helped contribute to the play of the night — Austin Kearns’ 9-2 forceout to nail Felipe Lopez at the plate later in the seventh — but had to be removed during the ninth inning when the pain became too much.

X-rays taken on Flores’ shoulder after the game came back negative, so the catcher was diagnosed with a contusion. Acta said he’ll likely get Sunday’s series finale off, though.

“He got me good,” Flores said. “I can’t really throw very good, so that’s why they took me out of the game.”

Boone pays a visit

The Nationals were greeted with a nice surprise when they got to Chase Field before Saturday’s game: Former teammate Aaron Boone stopped by to say hello.

Boone, recovering from surgery two months ago to repair a rare heart defect, lives in the area. He hung out in the trainer’s room adjacent to Washington’s clubhouse, chatting with his mates from last year’s team, but he declined to give an interview.

According to Acta, the 36-year-old is recovering nicely and is close to returning to his normal daily routine. Boone hasn’t decided whether to attempt to return to play baseball.

“It was very nice to see him - lights up my face just to see him,” Acta said. “He was outstanding for us here. He’s an outstanding human being. We have a lot of good feelings for him. It’s just great to see him and to be able to see him fight back from what he went through. I’m sure he’s going to be fine at whatever he wants to do.”

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