Nationals 6, Cardinals 3

Preview | Box Score | Recap

WASHINGTON (AP)—When the season began, the Washington Nationals appeared to be headed for at least 100 losses. When they were 9-25 on May 9, that looked like a safe bet. It no longer does.

Sunday’s 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals was the Nationals’ sixth straight—their best winning streak in more than a year.

“I expected even better things than this,” said Manny Acta, the Nationals’ first-year manager. “We’ve still got two months to go and guys are playing good baseball.”

Washington is now 51-60—a half game behind the Florida Marlins—and Acta is hoping that the team can somehow finish at .500. That may be possible if Ryan Zimmerman keeps up his stellar performances.

Zimmerman broke his bat when he hit a tie-breaking single in the eighth inning and Dmitri Young added a two-run double to gave the Nationals their win.

With the score 3-3, Nook Logan led off the eighth with a bunt single off Ryan Franklin (4-2). Pinch-hitter Robert Fick sacrificed, D’Angelo Jimenez walked and Logan stole third without a throw.

After Ronnie Belliard struck out, Zimmerman took a called strike, swung at the second pitch, then fouled off four straight offerings before lofting a single to short left field. On Friday, Zimmerman hit a game-ending single off Franklin.

“He challenged me,” Zimmerman said. “I kept fouling them off. He made a pretty good pitch. I hit it off the end of the bat and put it in the right place. The more pitches you see, the more comfortable you get with the pitcher.”

A dejected Franklin, who allowed four runs and seven hits in just 1 1-3 innings in the two losses this weekend, tried to infer that the Nationals were simply lucky.

“And again he gets a hit, so I can’t do anything about that. I can’t hang my head and say I made a mistake or anything,” Franklin said. “We’ll see how long that lasts—see how long that they keep getting broken-bat hits and ground balls in the hole. It will even out.”

Young, who had three hits and three RBIs, added a two-run double for a 6-3 lead. Young tried to score on Austin Kearns’ single and was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Jim Edmonds.

“With Zimmerman up, you have all the confidence in the world. He’s so doggone good, it’s ridiculous,” Young said.

Ray King (1-0) threw only one pitch and induced Yadier Molina to hit into a double play that ended the eighth. King got his first win since April 15 last year for Colorado against Philadelphia. Chad Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save in 30 chances.

Washington had not won six in a row since July 21-27 last year. St. Louis has lost five in a row, the longest skid for the defending World Series champions since May 15-20. It was a frustrating weekend for the Cardinals, and it culminated with manager Tony La Russa ejected for arguing a checked-swing call on Ryan Ludwick.

“We had a shot, but they did everything better than we did for three days,” La Russa said. “One game they did it a lot better, and two days better, so they won three games.”

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright threw 115 pitches on a humid afternoon, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings. He also hit his second major league home run—the first was May 24 last year when he connected off San Francisco’s Noah Lowry in his first major league at-bat. Wainwright batted eighth, the second day in a row La Russa batted a pitcher eighth in hopes of waking up a struggling offense.

Washington starter Matt Chico gave up three runs and six hits in five innings.

Ludwick’s second-inning homer put St. Louis ahead, but Chico tied it with a run-scoring infield single in the bottom half off the glove of shortstop David Eckstein.

Washington went ahead 3-1 in the third on an RBI double by Young and a bases-loaded broken-bat bloop by Logan that landed in front of Eckstein, whose throw couldn’t beat Logan.

Wainwright homered in the fourth, and Edmonds hit an RBI double in the fifth — Juan Encarnacion tried to score from first but was thrown out by Belliard’s relay from Kearns in right. ^Notes: Washington SS Felipe Lopez left in the sixth inning because of tendinitis in his right knee. … St. Louis 1B Albert Pujols returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a sore right elbow. It was the first game he missed this season. … La Russa batted his pitcher eighth for the second straight game. 2B Aaron Miles, who pitched a perfect eighth inning on Saturday, batted ninth.

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