Nationals 4, Orioles 3

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WASHINGTON (AP)—The Washington Nationals’ rag-tag rotation took to the field a few hours before the game began so they could practice bunting.

What a group: Jason Simontacchi and Mike Bacsik, both out of the majors since 2004. Matt Chico, never before above Double-A. Levale Speigner, a rookie long reliever. And then there’s reliever Micah Bowie, whose first big league start since the last century—Sept. 29, 1999, to be precise—came Sunday against Baltimore.

Because of injuries, that’s what the Nationals are reduced to, and yet it’s working, to the tune of a 7-3 homestand, thanks in large part to tremendous bullpen work and just enough hitting. That combination worked again Sunday, when Nook Logan’s two-run single off reliever Danys Baez with two outs in the eighth inning capped a comeback and helped Washington beat Baltimore 4-3.

“I can’t say enough about the whole team,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “We’re patching up the rotation. We’re trying to squeeze nine innings the best way we can out of these guys and resting enough guys. Facing a tough guy out there.”

That would be Baltimore starter Erik Bedard, who tied a career high with 12 strikeouts, contributed his first two major league hits and first RBI, and left with a 3-1 lead after pitching seven innings.

Bedard said his legs were too tired to continue, and once he was gone, the Nationals had much better success against Baltimore’s high-priced bullpen.

“Erik is pretty honest with you,” Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. “When he says he’s done, he’s usually done.”

The Orioles spent $41.5 million in the offseason on three relievers who appeared in the eighth Sunday: Baez, Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker. That’s when things came apart and Baltimore blew a chance for its first three-game road sweep since 2005.

“It’s always good to get a guy like (Bedard) out of there, (but) we think we have a chance, no matter who’s pitching,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a one-out double off Bradford.

That’s when Baez (0-3) entered—and fared even worse. He gave up Ryan Langerhans’ RBI single, hit Austin Kearns with a pitch, and allowed Ronnie Belliard’s bloop hit that loaded the bases. After a forceout at home, Logan slapped a 3-2 pitch through the hole on the right side of the infield.

“I just got enough of it,” said Logan, who scored Washington’s first run in the third after reaching on a bunt, then stealing second and third.

Said Acta: “He caused some chaos.”

It made a winner of Jesus Colome (3-0), who threw a scoreless eighth. Chad Cordero pitched around a leadoff single and a walk in the ninth for his fifth save—and first since April 30, before he left the team to be with his dying grandmother.

“I was real pumped up and real excited to get that chance,” Cordero said. “Now I’m not thinking about my grandmother at all.”

He finished off the latest solid outing by Washington’s bullpen, a big reason the club is 8-6 in one-run games. The combined bullpen line Sunday: 5 2-3 innings, one run.

Washington needed that because Bowie lasted 3 1-3 innings.

“He just kind of hit a wall,” Acta said.

Bedard sounded as if he did, too, perhaps because he’s not accustomed to expending so much energy on the basepaths.

He got his first hit in seven career at-bats as a big leaguer with an infield single to short in the fifth, then drove in a run to make it 3-1 with a cleaner single in the sixth.

“It was hard to get my breath back after the sprints,” said Bedard, winless in his last six starts.

On Sunday, he gave up only one run and three hits in seven innings. He threw 98 pitches, 66 for strikes.

Acta—and, probably, his much-used relievers—would love to get that sort of outing from a starter these days. Tough, though, when four-fifths of the opening day rotation is on the disabled list.

“This is it, baby! We went 7-3 with this,” Acta said with a smile. “Regardless of what we’re going through right now with our pitching staff, even if we had five Cy Young-caliber pitchers, 7-3 is a terrific homestand, no matter who you are, whether you’re the Nationals or somebody else.”

Notes

Washington LF Ryan Church left in the sixth inning with a bruised left forearm after getting hit by Bedard in the fourth. An MRI exam showed his arm wasn’t broken. … Orioles OF Jay Payton had three hits.

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