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Armas solid over seven innings for win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Marlon Byrd made quite a first impression.
Tony Armas Jr.'s second impression wasn't shabby, either.

Byrd went 3-for-4, drove in three runs and made a nice catch in
his Nationals' debut, backing seven solid innings from Armas and
lifting Washington past the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 Monday night for
its third straight victory.

"You don't want to go out there after a trade and go 0-for-4,"
said Byrd, acquired from the Phillies on Saturday. "You want to
put together some good at-bats and show these guys I can play."

Brewers starter Doug Davis (4-5) gave up all five runs -- four
earned -- nine hits and two walks over six innings, then ripped RFK
Stadium's troublesome mound.

"It's horrible. It's the worst mound I've ever pitched on. It's
OK the first two or three innings, then after that there are holes
4, 5 inches deep," Davis said. "It's just really soft. It's
breaking down."

Armas (1-1) had no such apparent problems, earning his first win
since July 23 against the Florida Marlins. The right-hander, making
his second start of the season, was working on a pitch count and
allowed two runs, five hits and two walks.

He had rotator cuff surgery in May 2003, didn't return until
June 2004, and made just 16 starts last season. He began this
season on the disabled list with a groin injury, and made his first
start May 10, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

"I'm almost there," said Armas, acquired from the Red Sox in
the Pedro Martinez deal. "I just need to build up a little more
strength. But today was a good sign."

Gary Majewski worked out of a bases-loaded jam the eighth, and
Luis Ayala pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save.

In addition to Byrd's two broken-bat singles and two-run double
off the wall, Washington got a 3-for-4 night from Vinny Castilla,
including his fourth homer. Brad Wilkerson contributed two hits.

Washington acquired Byrd from Philadelphia on Saturday for Endy
Chavez -- both used to be starting center fielders, and both fell
out of favor with their former teams. Once a top prospect, Byrd
finished fourth in the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year voting after
hitting .303 with seven homers, 28 doubles and 45 RBI in 135
games. He began last season as the team's leadoff hitter but was
shipped to the minors in June and wound up batting .228 in 106
games with the Phillies.

"Sometimes it helps a guy, or a certain person, to have a
change of scenery," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "The chance to
come someplace new and get a fresh start always helps."

It doesn't hurt, surely, that Nationals manager Frank Robinson
is a big fan and plans to start Byrd against left-handers.

"There's a positive aura when you walk in here, to have a guy
who believes in you, coming from an organization that lost faith in
you," Byrd said. "These guys have faith in me, and you want to
keep that going and let that grow."

With Wilkerson entrenched in center, Byrd made his first start
in left field since 2001. The game's first batter, Brady Clark, hit
a floater to shallow left, and a charging Byrd slid out of the way
to let shortstop Cristian Guzman try to make the play with his back
to the infield. The ball popped out of Guzman's glove, and Clark
wound up with a double, though he was stranded.

Byrd worried about trying to make a diving catch and flattening
Guzman, saying the last thing his new team needs is another injury.

Indeed, after the game, Robinson said that right fielder Jose
Guillen will sit out the next few days to rest a bothersome ribcage
muscle injury.

"We talked, and I've been really banged up. We'll see if I can
get better," said Guillen, who was hit by a pitch for the sixth
time this season, by reliever Tommy Phelps in the seventh. "I
really cannot swing the bat right now. I'm not 100 percent."

That must make Washington even more thrilled with Byrd's debut.

He gave Washington a 1-0 lead in the second after Nick Johnson
reached on Davis' fielding error and Castilla singled. Byrd hit a
roller that third baseman Russell Branyan charged in to try to pick
up barehanded but dropped.

After Milwaukee tied it in the third with a two-out rally,
Castilla drove a 1-0 pitch into the Nationals' bullpen to make it
2-1. Washington added three runs in the fifth. Wilkerson singled,
was sacrificed to second by Jamey Carroll, and Johnson drove him
home with a single that glanced off second baseman Junior Spivey's
outstretched glove. Castilla followed with an RBI single, and Byrd
drove in two more with his double, which landed just below the
380-foot sign in left-center. If it had been 5 feet higher, it
would have been a homer.

Carlos Lee drew Milwaukee within three on his seventh homer, off
Armas in the sixth.

Game notes
Washington RHP Livan Hernandez's right knee was drained
Monday after an MRI exam and he was listed as day to day. ...
Castilla has seven game-winning RBI. ... Brewers RHP Ben Sheets,
out with an ear infection, will throw batting practice Tuesday, but
Yost said the starter will not return against Minnesota this
weekend.