Nats end 4-game skid while snapping Giants' 5-game run

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In what amounted to an audition for next year, rookie Ryan Zimmerman, career minor-leaguer Rick Short and fill-in starter Hector Carrasco all came up big for the Washington Nationals.

With little to play for other than finishing above .500, Washington used a lineup of rookies and reserves Thursday and still managed a 2-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants, who rested Barry Bonds and missed a chance to gain ground in the NL West.

Zimmerman, the No. 4 overall pick in June's draft, hit two singles and scored, Short delivered two doubles and an RBI and Carrasco threw 5 2/3 shutout innings to help Washington (78-75) end a four-game losing streak.

Another rookie, left fielder Brandon Watson, threw out Moises Alou at the plate in the second inning.

"You feel especially good inside when the kids go out there and do a job for you," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "This team is probably going to have a different face on it by the time we see it next year Opening Day."

Carrasco -- who had a grand total of one start in 557 appearances in the majors before this month -- declared that he wants to be a member of the rotation, not the bullpen, in 2006.

"I'm not afraid to say, 'Give me the ball,' because I know what I can do," he said after lowering his ERA to 1.15 in three starts necessary because of injuries to other pitchers.

Said Robinson: "He was good his first time out, excellent his last time out and super today."

Four relievers finished up the four-hitter, with Jon Rauch (2-4) getting the win for a 1-2-3 seventh and Chad Cordero pitching a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 47th save.

The Giants' five-game winning streak ended, and they remained five games behind NL West-leading San Diego, which lost 4-2 at Colorado.

"It's not fun to give up a couple runs and lose," said San Francisco's Brett Tomko (7-15), who lost his fifth straight decision, allowing eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. "But we're still in it. Until we get in a plane and go home on the last day of the season, we're still in it."

Bonds, who has four homers in his past four games, was out of the lineup because it was an afternoon start and he felt sore, manager Felipe Alou said. He planned to use Bonds if a runner got on late, but the last 10 Giants went down in order.

"We spent five months losing series. That's what has us five games back -- not the loss tonight," Felipe Alou said.

The game was scoreless in the seventh when Zimmerman led off with a single, his eighth hit in 20 major-league at-bats. At 20 years old, Zimmerman became the youngest player in Expos-Nationals history to bat cleanup.

Short drove him in with a double to right-center and Deivi Cruz
singled to make it 2-0.

"The jitters weren't there," said Short, who's 32 but never spent a day in the majors until this season because of questions about his defense. "Whenever a September call-up gets in there, you try to do something to win a game, make an impact, leave an impression on somebody, and that's all you can do."

The starting nine that Robinson sent out was something akin to a spring training traveling squad. Not a single regular was in the lineup, but four rookies were.

Robinson said he wasn't packing it in with the Nationals all but eliminated from playoff contention, merely trying to get some new energy into the lineup.

After all, Houston's 2-1 win at Pittsburgh meant Washington was six games behind the NL wild-card leader with nine games to go.

"If you want to be realistic, you say, 'What would it take? A miracle.' Well, miracles happen. Not too often, but they do happen once in a while," Robinson said. "But, realistically, yeah, we're looking at it, and probably it's insurmountable."

Carrasco acquitted himself quite well, though, giving up four hits and four walks. He struck out a career-high eight, getting rookie Lance Niekro three times.

The right-hander did find trouble in the second by walking two and then giving up a single to Todd Linden, who was playing in Bonds' spot in left. But Watson charged and made a one-hop throw that easily cut down Alou as he tried to come around from second.

"I thought I had a good enough jump to score," Alou said, "but I was wrong."

Game notes
Carrasco gave up Cal Ripken Jr.'s 3,000th hit in April 2000. ... The outfield assist was Watson's first as a major-leaguer and the 30th of the season for the Nationals. ... Four of Short's five career hits went for extra bases, including homers off John Smoltz and Dontrelle Willis.