Sports

Nats' sweep comes at Reds' expense

WASHINGTON — Another big inning decided the game. The two young guys in the middle of the infield again supplied infectious energy — not to mention solid defense. The newly anointed closer finally got his first save.

The recent nine-game losing streak isn't forgotten, but it sure is a more distant memory for the Washington Nationals following Sunday's 4-2 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the stumbling Cincinnati Reds.

”Psychologically, it has to be very good because we just got swept three series,“ Manager Manny Acta said.

Rookie Collin Balester (2-3) allowed one run in 51⁄3 innings, and Lastings Milledge hit his ninth home run for the Nationals, who led 4-0 after the first inning and outscored the Reds 19-10 over three games.

Not counting a win in a one-game series with Atlanta on opening day, the Nationals now have two sweeps — both against fellow last-place teams. They took three in a row in Seattle during an interleague series in June.

Second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, who along with newly acquired shortstop Alberto Gonzalez helped rejuvenate the clubhouse during the series, went 2-for-4. Bonifacio is 5-for-13 since the Nationals promoted him on Friday, and he and Gonzalez are using their speed to shut down the middle of the diamond.

”Ever since we got these guys, it's made an impression,“ said Balester, who got his first win since his major-league debut on July 1. ”The speed that we got, any ball up the middle's not going to go through anymore. We're going to give some teams some pressure from now on.“

Added Cincinnati Manager Dusty Baker: ”With that shortstop and second baseman, they're a different club — much different club than we saw last time. They have lots more energy, more life, more creativity.“

Then there's Joel Hanrahan, who was given the closer's job after Oldham County graduate Jon Rauch was traded on July 22. He surrendered a ninth-inning homer to Corey Patterson but finished for his first save on any professional level — and the first for any Nationals reliever since July 11.

”I've been waiting on the opportunity,“ Hanrahan said. ”I finished it up the way I wanted to — with a strikeout. That's how I envisioned it. I didn't picture the home run in there, but that's all right.“

The Reds lost for the eighth time in nine games and fell to a season-worst 10 games under .500.

”It's very frustrating because we're making stupid mistakes,“ said outfielder Adam Dunn, who committed an error. ”We're beating ourselves. We're obviously not getting hits. They're making every single play in the field — and we're making none.“

Reds starter Johnny Cueto (7-11) struck out the first two batters he faced, but the next five reached base. Milledge hit a solo homer, and Pete Orr, who had his first RBI in more than a year in Saturday night's seventh-inning rally, came through again by driving in a run with a single. Dunn misplayed Orr's hit, allowing another run to score. Wil Nieves followed with a bloop RBI single.

”I'm very happy with the way we played this series because we played clean baseball,“ Acta said. ”We wanted to see guys catching the ball and guys going all out and putting everything into it.“

Notes

■ The Reds have a losing record in 21 of their last 24 road trips.

■ The Nationals had a very thin bench: Elijah Dukes (leg), Ryan Zimmerman (hand) and Cristian Guzman (thumb) were unavailable.

■ Washington INF Aaron Boone, on the DL with a calf strain, will travel to Florida to continue his rehab with no time set for his return.

■ Reds OF Jerry Hairston Jr. missed his second straight game with a sore right hamstring.

■ Reds RHP Jared Burton, on the 15-day DL with a right-shoulder injury, threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session in Cincinnati on Saturday.

Nationals 4, Reds 2

Cincinnati AB R H BI BB SO Avg.

Keppinger ss 4 0 0 0 0 0 .272

Votto 1b 4 1 3 1 0 0 .279

Bruce rf 4 0 1 0 0 0 .270

BPhillips 2b 3 0 1 0 1 0 .276

Dunn lf 3 0 1 0 1 1 .240

EEncarnacion 3b 3 0 0 0 0 1 .251

CPatterson cf 4 1 2 1 0 1 .194

DRoss c 4 0 0 0 0 3 .232

Cueto p 2 0 0 0 0 1 .030

a-APhillips ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 .163

Lincoln p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Weathers p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —

c-Valentin ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 .250

Totals 33 2 8 2 2 8

Washington AB R H BI BB SO Avg.

Bonifacio 2b 4 0 2 0 0 1 .280

WHarris lf 4 0 0 0 0 1 .243

Milledge cf 2 1 1 1 2 0 .243

Kearns rf 4 1 3 0 0 0 .229

Casto 1b 4 1 1 0 0 0 .207

Orr 3b 2 1 1 1 0 1 .281

Nieves c 3 0 1 1 0 0 .278

AlGonzalez ss 3 0 0 0 0 0 .400

Balester p 2 0 0 0 0 1 .333

Shell p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000

b-Langerhans ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 .263

Manning p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —

Hanrahan p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Totals 29 4 9 3 2 5

Cincinnati 000 001 001—2 8 1

Washington 400 000 00x—4 9 0

a-grounded out for Cueto in the 7th. b-struck out for Shell in the 7th. c-struck out for Weathers in the 9th.

E—Dunn (7). LOB—Cincinnati 7, Washington 4. HR—CPatterson (7), off Hanrahan; Votto (14), off Balester; Milledge (9), off Cueto. RBIs—Votto (50), CPatterson (17), Milledge (36), Orr (3), Nieves (11). SB—CPatterson (11), Milledge (14). CS—Bonifacio (1), Milledge (6). GIDP—BPhillips, Casto 2.

Runners left in scoring position—Cincinnati 3 (Keppinger, EEncarnacion, CPatterson).

DP—Cincinnati 2 (Votto, Keppinger and Votto), (Keppinger, BPhillips and Votto); Washington 1 (AlGonzalez, Bonifacio and Casto).

Cincinnati IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA

Cueto L, 7-11 6 7 4 3 1 4 86 5.00

Lincoln 1 1 0 0 0 1 13 3.88

Weathers 1 1 0 0 1 0 23 3.26

Washington IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA

Balester W, 2-3 51⁄36 1 1 2 5 101 4.55

Shell H, 2 12⁄30 0 0 0 1 15 1.82

Manning H, 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 15 3.86

Hanrahan S, 1 1 1 1 1 0 2 14 3.98

Inherited runners-scored—Shell 2-0.

HBP—by Cueto (Orr), by Balester (EEncarnacion).

Umpires—Home, Mike Estabrook; First, Mark Wegner; Second, Jeff Kellogg; Third, Sam Holbrook.

T—2:27. A—32,939 (41,888).

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