- The Washington Times - Friday, April 16, 2010

WASHINGTON | In the brief history of the Washington Nationals, April has been a cruel month.

So far, so good this year. After the Nationals’ 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night, the team reached .500, albeit after just 10 games.

“When you win games and you haven’t played well, that’s a really good sign,” Adam Kennedy said.

Washington has won two straight in the late innings. On Thursday, Ryan Zimmerman, who hasn’t started the last five games with a strained left hamstring, hit a two-run, pinch-hit home run for an exciting win in Philadelphia. On Friday, Kennedy’s two-run single in the eighth inning keyed a three-run rally.

Trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the eighth, Alberto Gonzalez led off with a single off LaTroy Hawkins (0-2). After Willy Taveras ran for Gonzalez, Hawkins hit Josh Willingham with a pitch. Both runners moved up on Ian Desmond’s sacrifice, and with first baseman Prince Fielder playing in, Kennedy laced a ball under Fielder’s glove into right field to score Taveras and Willingham.

After Kennedy stole second, Wil Nieves’ single scored him. Kennedy got to hit because Zimmerman was on deck to hit for Nieves, and Milwaukee manager Ken Macha preferred to pitch to a player who began the night with a .160 average.

Jim Riggleman took over a team with baseball’s worst record at the All-Star break last year, and watched them play respectably during the second half of the season. This year, they began spring training with an 0-11 record, and now, he’s happy with what he’s seen.

“I’ve been pleased with them from the get-go,” he said. “In spring training, we weren’t winning games, but the energy was good. I really feel that we’re not playing at the top of our game — by any means, so that’s encouraging.”

Brian Bruney (1-0), who allowed an unearned run in the top of the eighth to give Milwaukee a temporary 3-2 lead, was the winner.

Sean Burnett retired the only batter he faced in the ninth, and Matt Capps retired two for his fifth save.

It was the second loss in as many games for Hawkins, who allowed four runs in the eighth inning Wednesday in Chicago. He’s given up seven runs in his last two innings.

An emotional Hawkins, eyes red, struggled to explain his misfortune.

“It’s not going to happen too often, but it did happen back-to-back games,” Hawkins said. “Kind of weird, but I accept it. Just didn’t get the job done.”

The Brewers took a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Gregg Zaun.

Casey McGehee, who had three hits, homered in the second to give Milwaukee a 1-0 lead. It was his fourth home run of the year, and second in two games.

Washington tied it in the bottom of the third off Yovani Gallardo on a single by Nieves and a triple by Nyjer Morgan.

Rickie Weeks doubled in the fifth with two outs off John Lannan, giving him hits in the Brewers’ first 10 games. He scored on a single by Corey Hart for a 2-1 lead.

Willingham’s third homer of the year in the sixth tied it at 2.

Gallardo, who signed a five-year, $30.1 million contract on April 8, hasn’t won yet this year. He allowed two runs and six hits in six innings in the best of his three starts this season. He walked four and struck out five.

Lannan allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings. He walked three and struck out five.

“I don’t think we’ve hit our stride yet,” Lannan said. “We’re just building off each game, and once we get Zim back, we’ll play better ball.”

NOTES: Nationals 1B Adam Dunn was ejected in the first inning of the game for arguing a called third strike. Dunn is 1 for 10 with six strikeouts against Gallardo. … Riggleman said Zimmerman should be able to play Saturday. He pinch hit for Bruney and hit into a double play. … Nationals RF Willie Harris wore No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson. Harris and Robinson were both born in Cairo, Ga. … Guzman singled in the first inning for his 500th hit with the Nationals. … Weeks became the fifth Brewers player to open the season with a 10-game hitting streak.

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