Nationals' winning streak hits seven

Nationals' winning streak hits seven

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals needed all the offense they could get as they defeated the Phillies, 7-4, at Nationals Park on Monday afternoon. Washington has won seven straight games, nine of its past 11 and improved its record to 53-85.

It looked like it was going to be a one-sided affair in the Nationals' favor. Right-hander Tim Redding had a no-hitter and Washington had a 6-0 lead after five innings. Ryan Zimmerman highlighted the scoring with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. It was a mammoth shot over the center-field wall off losing pitcher Kyle Kendrick.

But one had a feeling Redding wouldn't last much longer in the game, for he had a high pitch count, walked two batters and hit two others. Redding acknowledged that he didn't have his best stuff. Manager Manny Acta noticed that Redding didn't have good command of his fastball, which is why his pitch count (106) was so high.

"I was beat after the fourth inning," Redding said. "I was fortunate to make good pitches when I needed to. The breaking balls that I threw, were all executed. I got guys to pop up, hit ground balls, swing and miss."

Things started to unravel for Redding and the Nationals in the top of the sixth. With one out, Shane Victorino was able to collect the first hit for the Phillies. After Chase Utley flew out, Ryan Howard doubled near the right-field line and Jayson Werth walked to load the bases.

Redding was removed for left-hander Charlie Manning, who walked Pedro Feliz to send Victorino home. Right-hander Marco Estrada came in and didn't fare any better. He walked Pat Burrell to bring in Howard and hit Chris Coste with a pitch, which plated Werth.

Fortunately, Estrada was able to get out of the inning when Carlos Ruiz grounded out to Zimmerman at third base.

"These are the types of opportunities where we are going to find out whether these guys can throw strikes in certain situations," Acta said. "Marco threw some good pitches. Pat Burrell deserves a lot of credit. He has a tremendous at-bat. He laid off some tough pitches. He walks almost 100 times a year. But Estrada came back and got out of it."

Estrada was more critical of himself when talking about the sixth inning. He said he couldn't throw his offspeed pitches for strikes.

"I tried to be too fine with Burrell and I ended up walking him. I tried to make a two-seam run on Coste inside and it just got away from me," Estrada said. "I almost walked Ruiz, but I kind of slowed it down. All it takes is one pitch and I made the right pitch. When you are up five runs you have to go after guys. I didn't do that today. But I'm glad we got out of it."

The Nationals were able to get an insurance run off reliever Clay Condrey in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Jesus Flores doubled near the left-field line to drive home Elijah Dukes.

For Redding, it was his 10th win of the season, which matches a career high. He becomes the first Nationals pitcher to win 10 games in a season since right-hander Ramon Ortiz won 11 games in 2006.

"I battled all year. I believe that I could get to this point," Redding said. "The season is not over. I have four more starts at this point. I'm planning to win every single one of those. I just keep going out there and keep battling. The team is playing great right now, which gives us pitchers a lot more confidence because of the defense that is playing behind us. The bullpen is backing us up and we are scoring runs."

Redding also has had his way with the Phillies this year, going 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA. Asked why he's had his way with them this year, Redding said, "There is no rhyme or reason. I looked at the video. I continue to try to execute pitches and I'm having success with their guys and try to improve on the balls that they are hitting."

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