WASHINGTON -- Break even in June? Doesn't sound like much -- unless you're the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals got themselves to .500 with their 10th win in 11 games, beating the Seattle Mariners 2-1 Wednesday night and reaching a numerical and psychological milestone on the first full day of summer -- relatively new territory for a franchise used to losing from the get-go in April."I knew today was a big game. You kind of felt it," starter John Lannan said. "It's a good place to be right now. I've never been on a team that's this far into the season and been at .500. I like it, but it's time to kind of move past that and set new goals and start going above it."Washington hasn't been break even this late since finishing 81-81 in 2005, the inaugural season in the nation's capital. Considering where the team was two weeks ago -- nine games under and fading fast -- this was a win that was as much about reputation as anything else."Coming back from where we were, people probably said, 'Another Nationals year, they're going to flop.' Whatever," said second baseman Danny Espinosa, who scored one run and drove in another. "But this team's not like that. We're not going to accept losing."The Nationals are being creative with their latest wins. On Tuesday, they overcame a 5-1 ninth-inning deficit with Wilson Ramos' improbable game-ending homer. On Wednesday, their entire scoreboard output was a pair of unearned runs off Erik Bedard."We find ways to win," Lannan said.Lannan (5-5) allowed three hits and one run over 5 2/3 innings. Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen shut down the Mariners the rest of the way, with Storen pitching the ninth for his 18th save as the cheers cascaded -- an increasingly common event at Nationals Park recently after years of last-place baseball.Bedard (4-5) got a hard-luck loss for his superb night's work. He allowed three hits over six innings, and his 10 strikeouts were his most since May 2008. He also continues to baffle the National League like few others -- his interleague ERA dropped to 1.69, lowest among active pitchers, but his interleague record fell to 8-2.The Mariners were undone by three mistakes -- a first-inning error by third baseman Chone Figgins that led to Espinosa's RBI single, a fourth-inning throwing error by catcher Miguel Olivo that made possible an infield RBI single by Jerry Hairston with two outs, and a baserunning error by Ichiro Suzuki that likely cost Seattle a run in the sixth."No disrespect to these guys," Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan said. "But EB is pitching his tail off out there, and we've got to do something. You can't just score one run off ... you can't just score one run. I'll leave it at that."Given the recent track records of the starters, a pitcher's duel appeared inevitable. Lannan was 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his last five starts, while Bedard was 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA in his last nine. Both no doubt would have pitched deeper into the game were it not for the muggy conditions along the Anacostia River, where the first-pitch temperature was 88 degrees.Lannan's evening came to an end during an eventful half-inning that started when Suzuki reached on a comebacker that caromed off Lannan's left heel for a hit.Suzuki advanced to third on a throwing error by shortstop Ian Desmond, who was relaying the ball to the infield after a flyout to right. But Suzuki then was tagged out at home trying to score on a grounder to third, a gaffe that proved especially costly when Franklin Gutierrez followed with a two-out single.But those are sort of breaks falling the Nationals' way right now. Of course, it all comes with this reality check: They still have to make the jump from average to good."A ton of teams are .500 in June," Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman said. "We're playing good and we need to continue to play good, and if we continue to play good it'll mean more at the end of the season."
Washington RHP Cole Kimball is being shut down for two weeks as he attempts to recover from inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He's been on the 15-day disabled list since June 10. ... Mariners rookie 2B Dustin Ackley had pinch-hit single in the seventh, giving him a hit in each of his first five major league games. ... Seattle manager Eric Wedge said closer Brandon League was available to pitch. League took a comebacker off the right calf Tuesday.
21,367 (51.5% full) - % is based on regular season capacity
88 degrees, partly cloudy
Home Plate - John Tumpane, First Base - Derryl Cousins, Second Base - Ron Kulpa, Third Base - Jim Wolf
Erik Bedard went six innings against the Nationals, did not allow an earned run (2 UR), struck out 10 batters, and somehow got a loss.
He's the first pitcher this year to have 10+ K, allow 0 ER, and take a loss. In fact, he's the first since Johan Santana in April 2009, and just the seventh in the last 35 years.
None of those other six are Mariners, which means it's also a first in their team history.