- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 8, 2010

WASHINGTON | Willie Harris slid a silver, Elvis-style fake pompadour over his bald head, then looked a few lockers over and asked Washington Nationals teammate Ryan Zimmerman whether to add sunglasses to his get-up before doing postgame interviews.

“You can do what you want,” a smiling Zimmerman replied. “You’re the player of the game.”

Ah, yes, a victory does make for a better postgame atmosphere than a loss, and the Nationals are hoping to accumulate much more of the former than they have in recent seasons.

Harris hit a two-run homer, Zimmerman drove in the tiebreaking run off new Philadelphia reliever Nelson Figueroa with a blooper to shallow right that landed inches fair, and the Nationals edged the Phillies 6-5 on Thursday to avoid a three-game sweep.

“Any win’s a good win, and we look forward to many more of these around here,” said closer Matt Capps, who worked around Chase Utley’s leadoff double in the ninth for his first save with Washington.

The Nationals led the majors in losses the past two seasons and dropped their first two games of 2010 by a combined score of 19-5. But with the Phillies leaving 11 runners on base, helping Tyler Clippard (1-0) earn the victory with 1 2-3 innings of relief, Washington enjoyed being able to get “finally off the schneid,” as center fielder Nyjer Morgan put it.

Only 20,217 fans witnessed it, though, after a sellout of 41,290 for opening day, then 27,240 for Game 2 on Wednesday.

It was Morgan who wore the goofy Elvis headpiece for Halloween and handed it to Harris on Thursday, part of a plan to honor whoever earns the official “player of the game” citation in a home victory.

“If it gets the team going, and we’re all having fun, and we get a win out of it, I’ll do anything,” said Harris, who drove Kyle Kendrick’s changeup over the wall to put Washington ahead 5-2 in the fourth. “I’m excited about wearing this, and can’t wait to see Adam Dunn wearing it or Zimmerman wearing it.”

Zimmerman could have earned the right Thursday, thanks to his pair of doubles, including the go-ahead hit off Figueroa (0-1), picked up after being waived by the Mets this week.

“Not how I drew it up,” Zimmerman said, “but I’ll take it every time.”

Figueroa called himself “a little rusty,” noting that he hadn’t pitched in a week.

“I didn’t have, maybe, the command I would have liked,” the right-hander said.

Figueroa walked pinch-hitter Alberto Gonzalez to begin the seventh, a result of what Nationals manager Jim Riggleman called “a nice at-bat there to get us in position to win the game.”

Two outs later, Zimmerman lobbed a ball barely beyond the reach of sliding right fielder Jayson Werth.

“Quail ball,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel’s club kept falling behind, then coming back. The Nationals went up 3-0 in the first by turning three of Kendrick’s first five pitches into hits. Morgan led off with a triple, Cristian Guzman lined an RBI single, and Zimmerman smacked the first pitch he saw off the wall in left for a double.

Kendrick eventually settled down, retiring nine consecutive batters, until Dunn led off the fourth with a single. One out later, Harris homered.

Philadelphia scored twice in the fifth but could have had more. When Werth delivered his third double of the game, Howard strayed too far off third rounding the bag and was tagged out on a play scored 7-4-5-2.

“He made up his mind he was going back,” Manuel said, “and he got in no man’s land.”

Kendrick threw only 55 pitches across four rough innings. He allowed five runs and six hits.

Washington’s Craig Stammen was barely better, lasting five innings, and giving up four runs and nine hits. What he didn’t do was walk anyone, a rare feat for a Nationals pitcher, given that the team issued 17 free passes over the opening two games.

But with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, the Phillies only pushed across one run. With runners on second and third in the eighth, Brian Bruney got Placido Polanco to ground out.

Then, in the ninth, with two runners on, Capps got three consecutive outs.

“The game was sitting right there for us all day long,” Manuel said. “We didn’t cash in.”

NOTES: Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who began the season on the DL, threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session. Another reliever on the DL, J.C. Romero, threw eight pitches in a minor league game and is next scheduled to pitch Saturday. … The Phillies optioned RHP Andrew Carpenter to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, making room for Figueroa.

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