WASHINGTON -- A little run support and some timely hitting went a long way for the suddenly resurgent Washington Nationals.
Lastings Milledge and Ryan Zimmerman both drove in two runs and Washington beat the Atlanta Braves 7-3 on Friday night for its fourth straight victory."You can get all the timely hitting, all the timely hits you want, but if we don't win, those timely hits doesn't mean anything," Washington outfielder Willie Harris said. "Right now, everybody's playing well, everybody's having fun. It's a lot more fun around here when you're winning and we're going to try to finish up strongly."The winning streak matches the Nationals' season high. It's the third four-game run of the year for Washington, which last won five in a row Sept. 1-5, 2007.Before the current surge, Washington had dropped 14 of 16, including a 12-game losing streak, the franchise's longest since 1976."We don't remember the losing streak. You remember that," Manny Acta told reporters. "We have played good the last four games. ... We're enjoying it right now."Odalis Perez (6-10) allowed three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings to win for the first time in four starts. The left-hander walked two and struck out three.Benefiting from an early 5-0 lead, Perez was determined not to let the offensive outburst go to waste. Four of Washington's runs came on two-out hits."For any pitcher, you see three or four runs and you're good. You're happy with that. ... For me, to see four, five, six, seven runs -- that's a lot of runs to work with," Perez said.Joel Hanrahan, the sixth Washington pitcher, got the final two outs for his seventh save.Cristian Guzman, who became the second National to hit for the cycle in Thursday night's victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, had two hits and is on an 11-for-18 tear.Greg Norton homered for Atlanta, which has dropped 14 of 18. The Braves have lost eight of 12 to the Nationals, the only team below them in the NL East."Numbers can speak for themselves," Atlanta catcher Brian McCann said.After Perez wiggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first, Zimmerman's RBI single put the Nationals up 1-0. Following Guzman's double, Zimmerman blooped a run-scoring hit to right.In the second, Emilio Bonifacio's one-out triple scored Elijah Dukes, who had slapped a leadoff double off the glove of third baseman Chipper Jones. Guzman then singled for a 3-0 lead.Washington chased Braves starter Jorge Campillo in a two-run fourth. Bonifacio's single and walks to Willie Harris and Zimmerman loaded the bases with two outs. Milledge poked a two-run single to right, and Buddy Carlyle replaced Campillo."I missed a lot of my spots. That's the problem with me. I can't miss my spots," Campillo said.Campillo (7-7) went 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and eight hits. He walked three and struck out three.McCann wondered what a few early runs would have meant to Campillo and the Braves."We have to swing the bats early," McCann said. "If we put a three-spot on the board, he pitched a great game. Everything gets magnified when you don't swing the bats."Atlanta cut the lead to 5-3 in the fifth. Omar Infante led off with a double and Norton hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer to center. Josh Anderson reached on an infield single and went to second on second baseman Bonifacio's throwing error before Martin Prado's RBI double.Zimmerman's sacrifice fly and Ronnie Belliard's run-scoring single extended the lead to 7-3 in the sixth.
Milledge's multihit game was his 26th, second-most on the team to Guzman's 44. Milledge got his 100th and 101st career RBIs. ... Norton's pinch homer was his second this season and 12th of his career. ... RHP Elmer Dessens, activated before the game after agreeing to terms Wednesday, made his Braves debut. He allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings.