CINCINNATI -- Miguel Cairo was determined not to fail a second time.
Cairo struck out with two runners aboard and the score tied in the seventh inning Friday night, a big letdown in a weird game. He came through the next time up, hitting a running-scoring single with one out in the ninth inning that gave the Cincinnati Reds a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals.
"I had a chance two innings before, but I didn't swing at strikes," said Cairo, who got into the game as a pinch-hitter. "I said I'm only going to swing at strikes because when I swing at strikes, I've got a chance. He got it over the plate, and I hit it good."
Cairo's single to the gap in left-center was the third straight hit off Colin Balester (1-2), sending the Nationals to their fourth straight loss. Cairo is batting .333 off the bench.
"He's unbelievable," manager Dusty Baker said. "We try to get him at-bats so he's ready for situations like that. He's been lights out."
Actually, the lights started going out in the top of the seventh, when a bank of them failed behind first base. The umpires talked to both managers and decided to continue.
The game was halted when another light bank went dark in the eighth as hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman warmed up, prompting a 17-minute delay until they could be restored.
"I've seen lights-out problems before," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "That was kind of weird tonight."
Washington's Wilson Ramos hit a three-run homer off left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who remained winless despite matching his career high with three hits. Francisco Cordero (5-3) escaped a scoring threat in the ninth.
Brandon Phillips had a pair of run-scoring singles on a night when the postgame fireworks were dedicated to his musical tastes. Todd Frazier tied it with a run-scoring single in the seventh off reliever Tom Gorzelanny.
Willis threw 123 pitches and had the 15th multihit game of his career, but couldn't get a win. The left-hander has become the Reds' hard-luck pitcher. The bullpen has blown a save in three of his starts. Plus, he gets the worst run support on the staff.
"That's all you can ask for," said Willis, who is 0-2 with a 4.10 ERA. "I'm not really concerned about victories. They come in spurts. I like the way I'm throwing the ball and competing."
Left fielder Jonny Gomes returned for the first time since the Reds traded him for two minor leaguers on July 26, the only deal that the defending NL Central champions made before the non-waiver deadline. He singled, walked, struck out and ground out.
The Reds dedicated their Friday night fireworks to Phillips, using his favorite summer tunes as the soundtrack. The second baseman got the 35,089 fans cheering with an RBI single in the second, when shortstop Ian Desmond's fielding error set up the unearned run. Phillips also singled home a run in the sixth.
Willis walked a season-high five batters, giving the Nationals plenty of chances. It was familiar for the Nationals, who arrived in a hitting slump -- a total of three runs while dropping their last three games. They were 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position during an 8-1 loss to Arizona on Thursday night.
They had only one hit in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position on Friday night -- Wilson Ramos' homer in the fourth inning for a 3-1 lead. His 11 homers are the most in one season by a Nationals catcher.
The Nationals placed RH reliever Ryan Mattheus on the 15-day DL with a strained pitching shoulder. A corresponding move is expected on Saturday. ... The Reds activated RH reliever Logan Ondrusek off the 15-day DL and optioned LHP Travis Wood to the minors. ... RH Mike Leake was the last Reds pitcher to get three hits in a game. He did it July 9, 2010 at Philadelphia. ... After their weekend series in Cincinnati, the Nationals go to Atlanta for three more games, avoiding Hurricane Irene. ... LHP Ross Detwiler starts Saturday for the Nationals. He ended a three-game losing streak on Monday by beating Arizona 4-1. ... Leake tries to become the Reds' first 11-game winner on Saturday. He's 2-1 in three career starts against the Nationals.