- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

Shairon Martis delivered the kind of big-time pitching performance the Washington Nationals have been seeking all season, and in the process allowed manager Manny Acta not to have to rely on his beleaguered bullpen for a change.

Martis allowed one run and five hits in a complete game Saturday afternoon, leading the Nationals to a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals to snap a two-game losing streak.

The rookie right-hander was in command from the start, retiring the first 14 men he faced and carrying a shutout into the seventh before Colby Rasmus broke that up with a solo homer to right.

Still, Acta showed surprising trust in his 22-year-old starter, allowing him to hit for himself in the bottom of the seventh and re-take the mound both for the eighth and for the ninth in search of Washington’s first complete game of the season and first nine-inning start since 2006.

Not since Pedro Astacio shut out the Braves on Aug. 15, 2006 had a Nationals starter gone all the way. (Jason Bergmann and Tim Redding each were credited with complete games last season but only went eight innings in losing efforts on the road.)

Martis (3-0) never looked like he needed any help. He threw his first six pitches for strikes and never let up, needing only 110 pitches to get through the full nine innings.

The game was scoreless until the fifth, when the Nationals exploded for four runs, with Adam Dunn’s second-deck home run leading the way. Dunn’s three-run blast, though, wouldn’t have been possible if not for an error by Cardinals first baseman Chris Duncan earlier in the inning.

With two outs and the Nationals ahead 1-0, Duncan dropped Ryan Zimmerman’s foul pop. That prolonged the at-bat, and Zimmerman responded with a single to left. Zimmerman doubled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 21 games.

Dunn then followed by tattooing a 1-2 fastball from Joel Piniero into the second deck down the right-field line. The slugger’s team-leading seventh homer of the season made it 4-0, drew a big roar from the crowd of 19,950 and gave Martis plenty of cushion on the mound.

Washington added two more insurance runs in the eighth, paving the way for Martis to finish off the first complete game of his young career.

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