for this game

Lopez breaks out in Nationals' latest win

May 17, 2007 - 9:45 PM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Deciding to give Felipe Lopez a day off on Wednesday proved to be the smartest move that Manny Acta could make.

Lopez broke out of a prolonged slump with three hits, including an RBI triple in the sixth inning, as the Washington Nationals posted a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the finale of a four-game series on Thursday.

The latest triumph continued a resurgence for the Nationals (15-26), who captured their second straight series and improved to 6-1 on a current 10-game homestand.

"We've made a lot of progress," the rookie manager Acta said. "There are a lot of games left, but we keep preaching and teaching. Things are starting to change. Guys are starting to play the way we want them to play."

While Washington started to turn it around with a three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins over the weekend, Lopez had been mired in a major slump, batting just .165 (14-for-85) with 23 strikeouts in his previous 20 games. He had also been hitless in his last 12 at-bats.

Probably sensing that his second baseman was pressing, Acta gave Lopez the day off during Wednesday's 6-4 victory.

"He needed just to have a mental break," Acta said. "His mental approach and whatever he was doing at the plate showed. Guys need that once in a while; a little maintenance type of thing."

The move paid off as Lopez went 3-of-4 with a double, a triple and a run scored.

"It helped clear my mind - to step back," Lopez said. "I wouldn't take myself out. (Acta) said I needed a day off, and it paid off."

A .281 hitter in 71 games with the Nationals last season after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds, Lopez opened it up on a two-out single in the third inning.

The 27-year-old added a double in the fifth and later scored on Austin Kearns' infield single near the third base line with the bases loaded, cutting the Braves' lead to 3-2. Atlanta starter Chuck James failed to field the slow roller as he attempted to tag Lopez with the same motion.

"I was just trying to beat him to the plate," Lopez said. "I saw him try and pick it up and he dropped it."

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said that James pitched well and he lauded him his attempt.

"That was a great play. He just missed the tag," Cox said.

"I feel like I kind of rushed myself a little bit," James said. "I thought he was farther up the line. It was the only play I had."

The Nationals managed to tie the game at 3-3 in the sixth after rookie catcher Jesus Flores ripped a leadoff double against James and later scored on Dmitri Young's pinch-hit single with one out.

Young was then pinch run for by Cristian Guzman, a move that proved crucial to the win as Lopez followed with a drive in the left-center field gap for the go-ahead triple.

Although Lopez was stranded at third, the one-run edge was all Washington would need as the bullpen shut down the Braves en route to its fourth straight win by two runs or less.

"They were all tight games," Cox said of the series. "We need to wake up the bats a little bit."

Billy Traber and Jesus Colome both threw a perfect inning before Jon Rauch struck out one in the ninth for his third save in as many games. Closer Chad Cordero was unavailable after pitching the previous two days.

Rauch served as the closer while Cordero was on bereavement leave following the death of his grandmother, but Acta said that Cordero will resume his role on Friday.

"Our job is to get outs no matter what our role is," Rauch said. "We go out there and get outs and (try to) keep the game where it is."

Cox was impressed with what he saw this week from the Nationals.

"They looked pretty good to me. Their bullpen has been outstanding the entire four games," he said.

The late rally made a winner out of rookie Matt Chico (3-4), who allowed three runs and five hits in six innings.

It was the third straight solid outing against Atlanta for the 23-year-old lefthander, who has yielded five earned runs in 15 2/3 frames against it this season.

Chico did give up his seventh home run of the season in the fourth, as Chipper Jones opened the scoring with a two-run shot. It was the 11th homer of the season for Jones.

"After the two-run homer, I told myself, 'It's a two-run game - that's it," Chico said. "The offense is hot now. All I have to do is get my outs."

The Nationals did get a run on an RBI single by Tony Batista in the bottom of the fourth, but Matt Diaz's single in the fifth re-established the Braves' two-run lead at 3-1.

Atlanta righthander Chad Paronto (2-1) gave up a run and two hits while failing to record an out.

James finished with three runs and eight hits allowed in 5 1/3 frames. He also struck out five and walked two en route to watching his road ERA rise to 4.64.








  • NL
    FINAL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 3 5 0
    WASHINGTON 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 x 4 11 0 (FINAL)

    BATTERIES: ATL - CHUCK JAMES, CHAD PARONTO (6TH), TYLER YATES (6TH), PETER
    MOYLAN (8TH) AND JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA
    WAS - MATT CHICO, BILLY TRABER (7TH), JESUS COLOME
    (8TH), JO

    May 17 3:41 PM
  • 35
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 35 roots

    Braves vs. NationalsMay 17 3:35 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    TRIPLE BY FELIPE LOPEZ SCORED CRISTIAN GUZMAN.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, F LOPEZ ON THIRD, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 3
    WASHINGTON 4 BOTTOM, 6TH
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: R BELLIARD (.267, 0-FOR-2, BB)

    Braves vs. NationalsMay 17 2:59 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY DMITRI YOUNG SCORED JESUS FLORES.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, D YOUNG ON FIRST, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 3
    WASHINGTON 3 BOTTOM, 6TH
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: F LOPEZ (.241, 2-FOR-3)

    Braves vs. NationalsMay 17 2:56 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY AUSTIN KEARNS SCORED FELIPE LOPEZ.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, A KEARNS ON FIRST, R CHURCH ON SECOND, R
    ZIMMERMAN ON THIRD, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 3
    WASHINGTON 2 BOTTOM, 5TH
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: T BATISTA (.167, 1-FOR-2, RBI)

    Braves vs. NationalsMay 17 2:33 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY MATT DIAZ SCORED SCOTT THORMAN.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, M DIAZ ON SECOND, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 3
    WASHINGTON 1 TOP, 5TH
    DUE UP FOR ATLANTA: E RENTERIA (.335, 1-FOR-1, BB)

    Braves vs. NationalsMay 17 2:19 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY TONY BATISTA SCORED RYAN ZIMMERMAN.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, T BATISTA ON FIRST, R CHURCH ON THIRD, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 2
    WASHINGTON 1 BOTTOM, 4TH
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: J FLORES (.310, 0-FOR-1)

    Braves vs. NationalsMay 17 2:09 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    TWO-RUN HOME RUN BY CHIPPER JONES (11) TO CENTER WITH 0 OUT
    IN THE 4TH OFF MATT CHICO SCORED EDGAR RENTERIA.
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 2, WASHINGTON 0
    DUE UP FOR ATLANTA: A JONES (.229, 0-FOR-1)

    Braves vs. NationalsMay 17 1:56 PM