Photo by Cheryl Nichols
Atlanta Braves starter Tim Hudson is among the cream of the crop in this year’s National League Cy Young contenders. He is in shared company beside the Cardinals’ Adam Wainright, the Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez, and the Phillies’ Roy Halladay as some of the best in the game. Not only that but Hudson has dominated the Nationals previously going 10-1 with a 1.55 lifetime ERA against the club. But on Friday night, that was of no consequence in Washington.
It took nearly six months but the Nationals finally strung together a season-high four game win-streak in front of a crowd of 22,515. The 8-3 victory over a Braves squad fighting for a Wild Card berth was a direct result of some sizzling at-bats from the Nats likely suspects at the plate.
Adam Dunn, who went 3-for-5, recorded his sixth multi-homer game of the season and the thirtieth of his career, which is part of how and why the Nats made Hudson look foolish from the mound.
Dunn’s homers came on back-to-back plate appearances against Hudson in the second and third, followed by countless “Sign Adam Dunn” fan chants from the upper-deck and around the park – most of which he heard from the field.
“It’s starting to become home, you know what I mean? The way the fans have received me, it’s good,” Dunn told reporters after the game.
Manager Jim Riggleman isn’t thinking too far into the future about Dunn’s status with Washington following the 2010 season though. “You get attached to players and you appreciate what they do and all that but that’s just something that will work itself out,” he said.
Willie Harris had his share of the spotlight as well by hitting the first inside-the-park homerun in Nationals Park history off of Braves reliever Kyle Farnsworth in the seventh to the centerfield wall.
Jordan Zimmermann got the win, his first of the season since returning from Tommy John Surgery, having carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning. Zimmerman retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, allowing Braves left fielder Matt Diaz to reach first on a hit-by-pitch.
The only blemish on what Riggleman called Zimmermann’s best outing of the year was a solo shot by Omar Infante in the fifth, but he quickly recovered to strike out rookie Jason Heyward.
According to Riggleman, Zimermann got his stuff going earlier tonight than in previous outings. “A few of his outings he really didn’t get it going until the third or fourth inning. Tonight, he had a feel for it coming out the bullpen,” he said.
The Braves entered the Friday night contest in Washington with a half-game lead over the Padres in the National League Wild Care race, but they’re now tied with the San Diego Padres and the Nats have a chance to play the spoiler during Bobby Cox’s final days of his Major League managerial career.
Is the spoiler affect heavy on Riggleman’s mind? Nope.
“That never even enters the thought. [We’re] just trying to win a ball game,” he said. “The umpire says ‘Play ball!’ and everybody’s competitive juices are flowing and we just happen to be playing the first and second place teams this week but it’s a very tough challenge against all the pitching we’re going to face this week but we’re just going to try to win games and it has nothing to do with what it does for the other club.”
The Nationals play their final Saturday afternoon home game against the Braves with veteran right-hander Derek Lowe (14-12, 4.18) facing Washington rookie Yunesky Maya (0-2, 6.32) who will be seeking his first Major League victory.