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Flores, Clippard carry Nationals

Flores, Clippard carry Nationals

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SEATTLE -- The Nationals saw glimpses of what the future holds for them on Saturday night. Jesus Flores' bat and Tyler Clippard's arm helped Washington defeat the Mariners, 5-2, at Safeco Field.

By winning the first two games against Seattle, the Nationals won their first series since taking three out of four games from the Mets at Shea Stadium May 12-15.

The game was tied at 2 in the top of the seventh inning, when Flores became the hitting hero. He took Miguel Batista's 2-2 pitch and hit a fly ball to deep left field. Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez leaped over the wall and just missed catching the ball. Flores ended up with a two-run homer. It was Flores' fourth home run of the season.

"I tried to put the ball in play and didn't try to do too much. I was out in front, but I hit it hard enough," Flores said.

Since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on May 9, Flores has been the Nationals' most productive power hitter. After the game, manager Manny Acta hinted that Flores will continue to be the starter even when Paul Lo Duca is activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Flores is hitting .327 with four home runs and 23 RBIs for the season.

"It's still about four months to go and a lot of at-bats left, but the way [Flores] is playing right now, there is no way we are going to be able to not play the kid and not be able to feel like he's part of out lineup right now," Acta said. "He is doing it offensively and defensively.

"As far as Paul is concerned, he is gong to get his playing time, too. We are going to get him at-bats. Flores is not going to catch every single time. He doesn't do it now."

The move to activate Lo Duca means that Clippard will be optioned back to Columbus. He was given the news after pitching six innings plus two batters, while giving up two runs on seven hits.

Unlike his last start last Monday against the Giants, Clippard was able to command his fastball. His pitch count was low enough to where he was able to come out for the seventh inning.

The sixth inning proved what kind of pitcher Clippard is. After getting two quick outs, Clippard walked Jose Vidro and gave up a double to Ibanez to put runners on second and third. Adrian Beltre was walked intentionally to load the bases.

The power-hitting Richie Sexson came to the plate. With the count 2-2, Clippard struck out Sexson to end the inning.

"It was huge," Clippard said. "That was a big out, obviously, in that situation and keeping our team in it. The game could have gone one way or the other. I was glad I was able to get him and go on from there."

It has been a roller-coaster ride for Clippard the past week. A couple of hours after pitching against the Giants, Clippard was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Once he rejoined the Clippers the next day, he was informed that he would start again on Saturday against Seattle because Odalis Perez was placed on the disabled list because of shoulder tendinitis. The silver lining for Clippard is that he leaves the Nationals on a positive note.

"It's been crazy -- kind of wondering what's going on, if I'm going to be here or not," Clippard said. "But that kind of stuff is out of my hands. They tell me what I'm going to do and I do it. I can't do anything except for that.

"Obviously, I want to be here. I feel like I should be here, but it's out of my hands. I'm not really going to worry about it. I want to pitch well every time out, whether it's the Major Leagues, Triple-A or softball or whatever. I want to do good. It doesn't matter."

Clippard's counterpart, Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard, was just as effective, giving up two runs in six innings.

The Nationals had a 2-0 lead after four innings. In the first inning, Elijah Dukes came home on a single by Flores. In the fourth inning, Felipe Lopez doubled home Ronnie Belliard.

However, in the fourth inning, Seattle used the long ball to tie things up at 2. Vidro and Beltre hit solo home runs.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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