WASHINGTON -- A Washington Nationals starting pitcher finally left a game in 2009 with his head held high, getting a standing ovation from fans sitting near the home dugout and fist bumps and backslaps from teammates.
Not coincidentally, the Nationals finally won a game in 2009.Shairon Martis threw 6 1/3 solid innings, Adam Dunn hit one of Washington's four homers, and the Nationals avoided setting a club record for most consecutive losses to start a season by beating the Philadelphia Phillies 8-2 Thursday night."The win means a lot. It gets the monkey off our back right now," Elijah Dukes said. "And just to feel more relaxed about yourself coming to the field -- now we feel better as a team."Washington is 1-7; in the franchise's two-city history, only this edition and the 1998 Montreal Expos opened 0-7, according to STATS LLC."We weren't nervous, by any means," said Ryan Zimmerman, who singled twice. "But it's a lot nicer to win than lose. We're six games under .500 -- that's the way you look at it."Martis (1-0) gave up two runs and five hits in by far the most effective performance by any member of Washington's young starting rotation in 2009. Mike Hinckley, Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan followed with 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief."This was a very important outing," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "Starting the season 0-7, with all the pressure of 'Who's going to win the first game?' 'Who's going to have the first quality start?'"Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins went 1-for-6 with two walks while Martis was in the game."If he can shut that offense down," Dunn said, "he can shut any offense down."Dunn hit a three-run shot off Joe Blanton (0-1) in the first inning, while Josh Willingham hit his first homer with the Nationals as a pinch-hitter in the seventh off Chad Durbin. Willingham hesitated as he began rounding the bases, thinking maybe his drive to left had been caught by Raul Ibanez."I filled up a lot of columns," said Willingham, who entered the night 0-for-11 with Washington. "I've got a batting average now, a run scored, an RBI."Dukes and Alberto Gonzalez connected against Jack Taschner during Washington's four-run eighth to put the game out of reach.Offense, though, has not been a problem this season for the Nationals, who entered averaging 4.9 runs. Pitching, well, that's another matter. Martis lasted three innings in his rain-interrupted season debut -- long enough to allow three runs -- and Nationals starters were 0-5 with a 10.73 ERA before Thursday."I was more aggressive," said Martis, who started 19 of 26 batters with strikes. "I came with a goal to stop the losing streak."The Phillies' three-game winning streak ended."We have had a lot of distractions and a lot of things going on, and we need to get on with our season," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "We won the World Series last year, but that was last year."Neither club has pitched well. They came in with the NL's two highest ERAs, Washington at 7.71 and Philadelphia at 6.68. Still, Martis was nearly matched by Blanton, who certainly permitted plenty of hits (eight) but only one that produced any runs during his six innings: Dunn's drive to right, his third homer with the Nationals."He set the tone," Acta said. "That's what we need."
The Phillies wore black patches with the initials "HK" in memory of broadcaster Harry Kalas, who died Monday. ... The last team to start a season with at least eight losses was the 2003 Tigers, who began 0-9, according to STATS LLC. ... Washington 1B Nick Johnson, moved up to No. 2 in the batting order, had three hits. ... The Nationals have hit at least three homers in consecutive games for the first time since moving to D.C. The Expos last did it on Sept. 15, 2004, at Florida.