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Nationals nearly blow five-run lead

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Ryan Howard seemed to leave little doubt
where his deep fly ball was headed off All-Star closer Chad Cordero
in the ninth inning.

"I thought it was gone when he hit it," Washington manager
Frank Robinson said. "I said it was a home run."

Instead, Brad Wilkerson caught it against the 401-foot sign in
center and Phillies fans headed for the exit. Philadelphia's
game-tying rally was denied and Cordero saved another one-run win
for the first-place Nationals.

Carlos Baerga hit a three-run homer and Matt Cepicky drove in
three runs to lead Washington to an 8-7 victory over Phillies on
Friday night.

"Probably in our ballpark it would have been 20 or 30 feet
short," joked Wilkerson, who had three hits and started a relay
throw that nailed Philadelphia's tying run at the plate in the
sixth.

Washington nearly wasted a five-run lead in the middle innings,
giving up three runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth.

But Gary Majewski pitched two scoreless innings of relief, and
Cordero threw a scoreless ninth for his league-leading 31st save.
Washington earned its major league-leading 24th one-run victory.

"It would have been kind of devastating if we let this one get
away," Robinson said.

The Nationals had dropped three of four to the Mets for their
first series loss at home since April. But they had 11 hits and
dropped the last-place Phillies 9½ games back in the division.

"This was a huge win for us, especially after the series we
just had," Cordero said.

Ryan Drese (3-1) continued to turn his season around since the
Nationals claimed him off waivers in early June, allowing just one
hit until he gave up three runs in the fifth.

By that time, the NL East-leading Nationals already had staked
him to a 5-0 lead against Robinson Tejeda (1-2), who lasted just 3
1/3 innings in the worst of his six starts this season.

Tejeda hit two batters in the third and walked Vinny Castilla
with the bases loaded. Cepicky, whose RBI double in the second made
it 1-0, drove in two more runs in the third with a single for a 4-0
lead. Jose Guillen added an RBI single in the fourth.

Philadelphia got to Drese for three runs in the fifth, two on
Howard's double. Howard was 2-for-5 with three RBI.

The Nationals, though, came right back in the sixth on Baerga's
first homer since last Aug. 13 against the Mets. The
switch-hitting first baseman went deep from the right side off
Aaron Fultz, the ball just clearing the left-field wall and landing
in the flower bed.

"He got a big one there to give us a cushion that stood up for
us," Robinson said.

Philadelphia scored more three more runs in the sixth on a
sacrifice fly, an infield single and an RBI double from Howard that
made it 8-7. Howard's hit knocked high off the center-field wall,
but Pat Burrell was waved home from first by third base coach Bill
Dancy and thrown out at the plate to end the rally.

"It's a judgment, timing thing," manager Charlie Manuel said.
"I'll stand behind [Dancy] 100 percent. They had two good relay
throws."

The Phillies threatened again in the eighth, putting runners on
first and third with no out against Majewski, but failed to score.

Drese was Texas' opening-day starter and was 4-6 with a 6.46 ERA
in 12 starts for the Rangers. He pitched eight innings in two of
his first three starts for Washington, giving a needed and
unexpected boost to the rotation.

Drese gave up six hits and struck out four in five-plus
innings.

Game notes
Fultz relieved Geoff Geary, who left the game after he
fouled a ball into the dirt and it smashed straight up into his
face, knocking off his helmet. Geary collapsed and left with his
right eye shut, though not swollen. Geary was taken to a hospital
for further evaluation. Pitcher Jon Lieber finished the at-bat with
two strikes and took a called strike three. The strikeout was
credited to Geary. ... Washington 1B Nick Johnson and OF Ryan
Church are scheduled to begin rehab assignments this weekend with
Double-A Harrisburg. ... Former Philadelphia player Marlon Byrd
pinch hit in his first game against his former team and doubled,
but he was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into a
triple.