Inside Pitch: Nats Winning Close Ones

Schneider's double wins another close one

The Nats are losing blowouts and pulling out close ones. That's OK with Frank Robinson.

The Nationals only know how to lose blowouts, and they only know how to win nip-and-tuck thrillers. As long as they do more of the latter than the former, manager Frank Robinson will be fine.

One night after suffering an ugly 11-2 loss to the Braves -- their third in four days by at least eight runs -- the Nationals rallied in stirring fashion to beat Atlanta 4-3 Tuesday night at Turner Field.

Catcher Brian Schneider highlighted a three-run ninth when he drove a two-run double to right-center off Braves closer Danny Kolb. Nationals closer Chad Cordero then waited through a 31-minute rain delay in the bottom of the ninth to record his first save of the season.

The Nationals have now won four games this season, all of them coming thanks to late-inning rallies. They pulled it off twice against the Phillies in the season-opening series, did it to the Marlins in extra innings Saturday and now did it again to the Braves.

NOTES

--3B Vinny Castilla sat out Tuesday night's game in Atlanta and will again sit out today's series finale due to a "pinching" feeling in his right shoulder. Castilla said he had trouble throwing the ball overhand to first base Monday, but that the injury does not affect his swing. He'll receive treatment the next two days and expects to be back in the lineup Thursday for Washington's home opener against Arizona. Utility IF Jamey Carroll started at 3B Tuesday in Castilla's place and batted second.

--OF Ryan Church made his first start of the season in center field Tuesday, with OF Brad Wilkerson shifting over to left field. Manager Frank Robinson had wanted to use this alignment since Opening Day, but chose to use Church in left field until his strained groin fully healed.

--RHP Chad Cordero earned the first save in Nationals history Tuesday with a scoreless ninth inning against the Braves. Cordero, whose inning was halted in the middle by a 31-minute rain delays, had already won two games in relief.

--Eight games into the season, the Nationals' starting rotation still has not won a ballgame yet. RHP Esteban Loaiza pitched very well for the second straight outing on Tuesday, but left trailing 3-1. Washington eventually came back to beat the Braves, but the win went to RHP reliever Luis Ayala.

--The White House confirmed on Tuesday that President Bush will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals' home opener Thursday against Arizona. Nine members of former Washington Senators teams will take the field at each position, including LHP Joe Grzenda, who was on the mound Sept. 30, 1971 when the final game in Senators history was forfeited due to unruly fans storming the field. Grzenda has kept the ball from that game all these years and is expected to hand it to President Bush on Thursday for use as the ceremonial first pitch.

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