The Indians beat the Nationals 7-2 Friday night at Progressive Field behind a dramatic 2 home run 4 RBI performance by their former teammate.
Austin Kearns blasted a 3-run shot in the 1st inning that quickly erased an early Nats lead. Then in his second at-bat, Kearns lauched another Luis Atilano (5-3) pitch over the left center field wall for a 4-1 Tribe advantage.
Jake Westbrook (4-3) befuddled the Nats after they started the game with three consecutive base hits, going seven and one-third innings and allowing two runs on seven hits.
Pudge had a pair of base hits off of Westbrook, but said the veteran was clicking all night. “I have known him for a long time. He is a bull. He goes out there and get some innings and he did that tonight.”
The Nats can point to a couple of key plays in the early going that could have made the difference in a close game.
Nyjer Morgan led off the game with a base hit, but then slipped out of his lead at first with Ivan Rodriguez at the plate and was gunned down at second base by Indians rookie Carlos Santana.
Pudge and Adam Dunn followed with back-to-back doubles, but the Nats managed just one run in their opening frame.
In the Indians half, Luis Atilano had two outs with Santana at first base and Russel Branyan at the plate. His grounder in front and to the right of Adam Kennedy was booted for an error and both men were safe. Kearns followed with the 3-run homer giving the Tribe the lead they would never relinquish.
In the end, Atilano gave up three homers out of his seven hits allowed, but only two runs earned over five innings. He was taxed into throwing 103 pitches to 25 batters faced.
Pudge said Atilano “was having a tough night. He was bothered the whole game. He got behind in the count with a lot of hitters. He gave up a couple of mistakes to Kearns and he hit them out of the park.
I thought the home run that (Travis)) Hafner hit was a pretty good pitch inside. He did a good job on that.”
Atilano said the beginning of the game set the tone after the Nats could not get out of the opening inning.
“I was having a hard time with the slider to be honest. The error killed me in the first inning but after that I thought I did a good job.”
MASN’s Bob Carpenter picked up on the crowd mic pitching coach Steve McCatty telling Atilano to get more aggressive. “In one inning, McCatty told me to pick up the pace and that I was getting a little bit lazy, and I was like “okay”, and then I figured it out and got back to normal.”
On the home runs by Kearns and Travis Hafner: “Solid shots. Sometimes you are going to give it (up) like that. I was able to throw my sinker to the outside corner and I got a lot of ground balls.”
It was only the second time in the past 20 games that the Nats had allowed more than six runs in a game, the June 1st 8-7 loss at Houston, dating back to May 20th when the Nats fell to the Mets 10-7.