Nationals 4, Indians 1

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WASHINGTON (AP)—After getting the clutch two-out hit that gave him his first multi-RBI game in the majors, Brandon Watson was not done. He stretched the single into a double with a headfirst slide that barely beat the throw from right field.

He then rose to his knees and slapped his hands.

“Like, ‘Let’s play ball!”’ he said. “We’re winning the game. It’s a big situation, and I’m going to be feeling good.”

Watson showed Friday night that perhaps he really can hit on this level. A few days after earning a promotion based on a 43-game minor league hitting streak, Watson went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs to help the Washington Nationals beat the Cleveland Indians 4-1.

“Two big hits by the kid,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said.

With his boyish face, slender frame and crouched extremely low in his new stance, Watson looked straight out of Little League instead of the Triple-A Columbus, but he sliced a fourth-inning single to left and pulled a sixth-inning double to right—both with two outs and the pitcher on deck. It was his first multihit game since his major league debut in August 2005.

“It seems like a long time, huh?” Watson said. “It’s been a while, but I’m back here. I’m fortunate to be in the lineup, so I’m going to play hard every day.”

There were other firsts for the Nationals, who used seven pitchers to strike out 13 Indians and snap a three-game losing streak. Cristian Guzman’s three hits included his first home run at RFK Stadium. Luis Ayala, making his first appearance since blowing out his elbow in the World Baseball Classic more than a year ago, induced a huge double play that kept Cleveland from scoring in the fifth.

And, for the first time that anyone could remember, a grounder found its way inside a fielder’s jersey. Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had to reach between his buttons to retrieve the ball on a bad-hop single off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez in the second inning.

“That’s going to be a blooper highlight,” Nationals starter Micah Bowie said. “I’ve never seen that before.”

Washington’s hurlers rebounded after getting clobbered nightly in a three-game sweep by Detroit, with Saul Rivera (2-2) throwing a perfect sixth inning to get the win and Chad Cordero pitching the ninth for his 12th save.

“You can’t say enough about the bullpen,” said Bowie, who lasted only 4 1-3 innings but has yet to have the Nationals lose when he starts. “Those guys come in and shut the door. That’s a big lift for the team.”

Fausto Carmona (8-3) took the loss, allowing three runs and 10 hits over six innings. For the most part, the Indians were befuddled by an array of unfamiliar pitchers in their first game in Washington since 1971.

“When you don’t face the guys, it’s hard to hit,” Jhonny Peralta said. “I’ve never faced a couple of those guys. I don’t know what they throw. It’s hard to face so many different guys.”

Watson was not a familiar face, either. He had not played well in his previous but brief stints in the majors, hitting .175 in 25 games in 2005 and .179 in 10 games last year. He was claimed on waivers by Cincinnati after his demotion to the minors in 2006, and he wasn’t expected to make much of an impact with the Nationals after he rejoined their farm system this year.

But the 43-game hitting streak—an International League record—earned him a callup. He went 0-for-3 in his season debut Wednesday.

“I’m going to stay within myself this time and just put the ball in play and play hard,” Watson said. “And whatever happens after that has to happen.”

The Indians scored their only run on Peralta’s RBI single off Bowie in the third. Bowie is 4-0—and the Nationals are 7-0—in his turn in the rotation since he was moved out of the bullpen because of injuries to several starters.

Bowie struck out seven, but he had thrown 104 pitches by the time he was removed in the fifth. Rivera, Ray King, Jesus Colome, Jon Rauch and Cordero shut out the Indians the rest of the way.


Zimmerman on his wardrobe malfunction: “I was more upset because I didn’t get the guy out, but it was kind of funny. I don’t know how it got in there, but it got in there somehow.” … Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore was ruled out on fan interference when a spectator leaned over the railing and caught a foul ball in the fourth. LF Ryan Church had been in position to catch the ball. … Cleveland’s Ben Francisco made his first major league plate appearance, striking out as a pinch hitter in the ninth.

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