The Nats took two out of three games from the Rays to win their first series since taking two out of three from the Yankees in mid-June.
"Hopefully, this will keep going," manager Frank Robinson said. "It's very nice to win a series. It's very nice to have played a game like we played today. It was a nice, clean game."
Robinson thought right-hander Ramon Ortiz, who threw 98 pitches and was never in serious trouble, had his best outing of the season. In the past, Ortiz has often found a way to have a tough inning after getting off to a good start.
Ortiz pitched seven innings, surrendering just one run on four hits. That run was scored in the fifth inning, when Carl Crawford doubled to left field to drive in Tomas Perez.
"[Ortiz] was excellent today," Robinson said. "He was in complete control out there. It was seven outstanding innings. Overall, it was his smoothest outing."
The Nationals held the lead the entire game, jumping on top in the first inning against right-hander Jae Seo. Ryan Zimmerman started the scoring with a two-run homer that just made it over the left-field wall.
"He hung a slider, and I put a good swing on it," Zimmerman said. "I didn't think it would get out when I first hit it, but it snuck over."
Washington added another run in the first when Jose Guillen drove in Daryle Ward all the way from first with a double to left-center field. Guillen tweaked his right hamstring again while coming out of the batter's box.
Third-base coach Tony Beasley, assistant athletic trainer Michael McGowan and Robinson came to his aid. Guillen told Robinson that he couldn't score on a base hit from second base, but Guillen remained in the game until the seventh inning. He is listed as day-to-day.
"It was just a little cramp. It's nothing to worry about," Guillen said. "I told Frank that I wanted to keep playing. I'm not thinking about taking any more days off. I'm starting to feel comfortable at the plate. I have to deal with it."
It was in the sixth inning when the Rays made the game a comedy of errors. With Royce Clayton at the plate, pitcher Jon Switzer threw a wild pitch. After he grabbed the ball, catcher Dioner Navarro flipped it behind his back in an attempt to get Marlon Anderson, who had already scored. The ball went past Switzer, and Ortiz was able to score the sixth run of the game.
"[Switzer] threw a wild pitch, and I was able to score," Anderson said. "Ramon told me, 'I was right behind you. I was going to score, too.' It's part of the game. You try to take advantage of mistakes, and that's what we were able to do today."
Anderson also chipped in with a defensive gem in center field. In the sixth inning, Russell Branyan hit a fly ball that looked like it was going over the fence for a home run, but Anderson jumped and made the catch.
"[Anderson] has done an excellent job out there," Robinson said. "He has run some balls down. The only thing he hasn't been tested on is his throwing."
An infielder by trade, Anderson was put in center field because of his bat and the limited offense seen from Marlon Byrd and Damian Jackson. Robinson didn't rule out making Anderson the everyday center fielder. If it happens, it will mark the first time since the 2003 season, when he was with the Rays, that Anderson will play on a regular basis.
"I told Frank, 'I'll do anything in the game to get at-bats,'" Anderson said. "It's actually fun. I'm seeing the ball off the bat a lot better than I do in left and right. You don't have any angles. The ball is coming right at you. Just getting used to all that open spaces, it's definitely different."
With the win, Washington improved its record to 35-48. The Nationals completed Interleague Play with a 7-11 mark.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.