WASHINGTON (AP)—The Washington Nationals are prospering in their new ballpark.
Redding (4-2) closed out an 11-game homestand, Washington’s longest of the season, by helping the Nationals to their sixth victory in seven games. Washington finished the homestand 8-3.
“We were (6-15 overall) coming into this homestand. We had to come back in here, save face and protect our park,” said Redding.
Washington begins a three-game series in Houston on Tuesday, then concludes a stretch of 14 of 17 games at National Park by hosting Florida next weekend.
“It’s encouraging. We had a tremendous homestand. We won three series and that’s great—not only for our team but for our fans. … They got a good taste of our team,” Washington manager Manny Acta said. “And if you look at it, we’re still not hitting the way we’re capable of and we were able to have such a tremendous homestand.”
Redding, who has twice as many wins as any other Nationals starting pitcher, allowed six hits, walked none and struck out five.
“He pounded the strike zone with his fastball and was very aggressive, especially with the first pitch. … And he kept his pitch count low, which gave him an opportunity to go all the way to the seventh,” Acta said.
Redding departed after Adam LaRoche’s one-out double in the seventh put runners at second and third. Reliever Saul Rivera induced comebackers to the mound from Jose Bautista and pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz to escape the jam.
“It didn’t go unnoticed. … How huge was that? That was the game right there,” Acta said.
Aaron Boone, signed as a free agent in December to provide depth and veteran leadership to a young club, started at third base in place of Ryan Zimmerman, whose consecutive games played streak was halted at 205. Zimmerman’s was the second-longest active streak in the majors behind Atlanta’s Jeff Francoeur, who played in his 356th straight game Sunday.
Boone’s adjusting to his role as a part-time player.
“I’m still learning. It’s something I’ve embraced,” said Boone, who is 8-for-24 (.333) in six starts. “It’s something I actually am excited about and want to be good at. It’s a challenge in my career, and something I’m learning new every day. … I’m having fun.”
LaRoche had three hits, including a homer, and two RBIs for the Pirates, who have lost seven of 10 games and 13 of 18. It was the second homer of the year for LaRoche, who hit 21 home runs last year and hadn’t connected since April 9.
“He’s been swinging better,” Pirates manager John Russell said of LaRoche, who increased his average to .202, his first time above .200 since opening day. “He’s hit some balls at people. I saw glimmers of it a couple of weeks ago, and I see his confidence building.”
RBI singles by Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns staked Redding to a 2-0 first-inning lead. Cristian Guzman hit a one-out single, Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell (2-2) plunked Lastings Milledge in the left shoulder with a pitch and Johnson and Kearns followed with successive run-scoring singles to left.
Boone’s solo shot to left-center leading off the fourth, his first home run since last June 6, made it 3-0.
LaRoche hit a bases-empty homer with one out in the fifth.
Snell was pulled after yielding Felipe Lopez’s RBI single in the seventh. Snell gave up four runs on 10 hits, walked one and struck out two.
“I just can’t find a rhythm. I’m not lying. It’s like a nightmare,” Snell said.. “To tell you the truth, you go out and keep the ball down in the zone, it’s like ball. You keep it up, and you get smashed. I had a problem with keeping the ball down last year. Now, I’m keeping it down, and I’ve got to bring it up.”
Pinch-hitter Wily Mo Pena’s double off the left-field fence made it 5-1 in the eighth. LaRoche added a run-scoring single in the ninth.
Notes:@ Pittsburgh’s Nyjer Morgan snapped an 0-for-15 streak with a pinch-hit, bunt single in the eighth. … The Pirates selected the contract of LHP Sean Burnett from Triple-A Indianapolis before Sunday’s game and designated RHP Even Meek for assignment. Pittsburgh also acquired RHP Matt Miller in a minor league from Boston and assigned him to Indianapolis. … Lopez’s RBI was the 300th of his career.