<
>

Patterson delievers strong effort for Nationals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- John Patterson gave the Washington Nationals
exactly what they so desperately needed: a long, strong outing.

Pumping his fist repeatedly after working out of a bases-loaded,
no-out jam in the seventh, the right-hander scattered 10 hits over
8 1-3 innings to lead Washington to a 5-3 victory over the
Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.

"He put it all together tonight," manager Frank Robinson said,
"and we needed it."

The Nationals had lost five of seven games to drop into a tie
for last place in the NL East, and a string of injuries has thrown
their pitching staff into disarray.

With his 2.43 ERA and quality start after quality start,
Patterson could own a much gaudier record than 8-4. But he hasn't
received much run support and has 12 no-decisions. That was on his
mind Wednesday as he tried to protect a 2-1 lead late.

"I almost cracked tonight. I did. Almost cracked," Patterson
said. "The stress was starting to get to me. The stress of it all
year. I had to find another gear to try to get out of it."

Two singles and a hit batter filled the bases to start the
seventh.

"After that," Patterson said, "I just tried to get tough."

Did he ever.

He got Edwin Encarnacion to ground to first baseman Nick
Johnson, who threw home for a forceout. Then Patterson struck out
pinch-hitter Jacob Cruz, and got Felipe Lopez -- 3-for-3 to that
point -- to tap a comebacker that Patterson easily tossed to first.

"We just got a little anxious, I guess," Lopez said.

When the out closed the inning, the normally unflappable
Patterson punched the air a half-dozen times, then jogged and even
skipped on his way to the dugout.

"That was the game right there," third baseman Vinny Castilla
said.

Perhaps, but it was Castilla's two-run double to right in the
bottom of the seventh that helped pad the lead to 5-1. Reliever
Jason Standridge gave up three runs and three hits and walked two
in his one inning.

Reds starter Ramon Ortiz (8-9) gave up an RBI groundout to
Preston Wilson in the first, and Jose Guillen's homer leading off
the fifth. It was his 23rd homer of the season and only his third
at RFK Stadium -- but second in two nights.

"Only mistake of the game, that pitch right there," said
Ortiz, who gave up six hits and two walks over six innings.

Not bad, but not enough against Patterson, who is 6-0 at home
this season. He finished with eight strikeouts and one walk.

Patterson wasn't always dominant, giving up three runs, and
allowing leadoff singles in every inning from the fourth through
the seventh. He gave up Rich Aurilia's RBI double in the fourth,
and Javier Valentin's two-run homer in the ninth, but the
right-hander excelled when he needed to.

After Valentin's 11th homer, Chad Cordero came on and struck out
the final two batters for his major league-leading 40th save.

All in all, it was a big boost for the Nationals, who put
starter Ryan Drese on the disabled list Tuesday night and are
waiting to see if Tony Armas Jr.'s sore shoulder will prevent him
from taking the mound this weekend. Washington might have to dip
into the minor leagues for starters Saturday and Sunday. Plus,
reliever Luis Ayala (elbow tendinitis) won't be available until
Friday at the earliest.

Before the game, Robinson talked about the importance of getting
top-notch starting pitching from Patterson on Wednesday and Livan
Hernandez on Thursday.

"If they can get through their normal-type games, going deep
into the game, we'll be able to handle the weekend with the people
we have right here," Robinson said.

Patterson certainly delivered.

After allowing a game-opening single to Lopez -- who then was
caught stealing for the first of two times on the night -- Patterson
retired eight straight batters, five with strikeouts. The last two
outs of the third: Encarnacion looking at a 71 mph changeup, and
Ortiz looking at a 68 mph offering.

"He's established himself to the point that you expect
something good when he goes out there," Robinson said.

Game notes
Patterson doubled in the fourth, his third hit of the
season. ... Guillen made a fielding error for the second straight
night. The right fielder had five errors in 115 games before
Tuesday.