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Hammonds ends slump with game-winning hit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Postpone the farewell party for Jeffrey Hammonds. He's not done yet, not as long as he can get game-winning
hits with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

In an 0-for-13 slump entering the game, Hammonds took advantage
of a rare start to go 2-for-4 and single home Brad Wilkerson with
the lone run Wednesday night in the Washington Nationals' 1-0
victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

"Hopefully, it'll put y'all's shovels away, man," the
34-year-old outfielder said while flashing a broad smile. "You've
got a lot of dirt on top of my head right now."

Hammonds raised his average to a whopping .190 and got his first
RBI of the season. He hasn't hit better than .260 since 2000.
Before the game, manager Frank Robinson said he was going to start
working with Hammonds to help the veteran regain lost bat speed. It
turns out the lessons might not be necessary.

"It was a good momentum boost for him -- a confidence-type
thing," Robinson said. "It will loosen him up, relax him, and
he'll be able to swing the bat and play the way he's capable of
doing."

Asked if he made any adjustments at the plate, Hammonds chuckled
and said: "I cheated, man. My bat speed is slow."

One night after Milwaukee's Wes Obermueller took a perfect game
into the seventh inning, RFK Stadium was the site of two fine
pitching performances, by Chris Capuano (3-3) and Esteban Loaiza.
Only one batter for either team reached second base in the first
seven innings.

Then Capuano hit Wilkerson on the right shoulder with a 1-2
changeup to open the ninth.

"It just got away from me a little bit," said Capuano, whose 8
1/3 innings was the longest and arguably the best outing of his
major league career. "He could've got out of the way, but he was
trying to get on base. They never, never call that. It's just one
bad pitch. I'm sure I'll be replaying that one over and over."

After Jamey Carroll bunted Wilkerson to second, Milwaukee
manager Ned Yost pulled Capuano and brought in Mike Adams to face
Vinny Castilla, who hit a weak dribbler that turned into a hit when
third baseman Russell Branyan tried and failed to barehand the
ball. Nick Johnson was walked intentionally to load the bases,
setting up Hammonds' grounder down the third-base line with the
infield in.

"Now it feels as though I'm a National," said Hammonds, who
started in right field because Jose Guillen is nursing a strained
rib muscle. "Maybe we can get some things rolling. Maybe I can
help this team roll on a regular basis."

Gary Majewski (1-0) worked the ninth to get the win for the
Nationals, who have won four of five and again failed to provide
run support during another superb outing by Loaiza.

Loaiza allowed six hits -- all singles -- struck out five and
walked none in eight innings. Six of his nine starts have been
no-decisions, and he has allowed three runs or fewer in his last
eight starts. He is the second least-supported pitcher in baseball,
with the Nationals averaging 1.90 runs when he is in the game.
Three weeks ago, he was involved in a 0-0 game through eight
innings against Philadelphia before allowing two runs in the top of
the ninth in a 3-0 loss.

"A lot of the guys over here just keep on telling me, 'We're
going to get you some runs. We're going to get you some runs.' It
hasn't happened yet, but we won today," Loaiza said. "And I just
have to wait till Monday and perform again."

Capuano allowed five hits, struck out six, walked none and used
his deceptive move to pick off his fourth runner of the season,
fooling Loaiza completely after the pitcher singled to open the
sixth. Loaiza froze in his tracks and didn't even attempt to dive
back to first.

But someone had to score eventually, and Hammonds came through
with the hit that did it.

"We have different heroes every day," Castilla said. "It's
not like we have one guy all the time. That's what makes a winning
ballclub."

Game notes
Hammonds played three seasons for the Brewers, making the
game-winning hit even sweeter. "I don't mind that it happened
against Milwaukee, put it that way," he said, laughing. He ended
his 0-for-13 skid with a single to right in the second inning. ...
Washington RHP John Patterson received treatment for soreness in
his lower back and will miss his next start, Friday at Toronto.
Claudio Vargas will start in Patterson's spot on two days' rest.
... Guillen will sit out again Thursday.