The ingredients were all there:
* A bullpen that turned in four solid innings, making a respectable, but not dominant effort from a starting pitcher stand up.
* An offense that played station-to-station ball, getting more runs through smart baserunning, sacrifice flies (and a suicide squeeze play) as it did through homers.
* An infield that gobbled up ground balls, turning hits into outs with more than a few diving stops and fielding its way out of multiple-baserunner jams.
However many games this Nationals team wins, it'll likely get a large portion of them with that recipe. This group, as much as any that's come through Washington in the last seven seasons, seems to know its weaknesses and how it'll have to overcome them. And the team's first win of the year - a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves - was a perfect example of that.
"I think that's the style of baseball you're going to become accustomed to seeing us play," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "We've got a good club. We've got a good lineup, a good group of guys. We're getting to know each other, and that's what it's all about. We've got a long year, but I like the direction we're heading."
John Lannan allowed a run in a five-inning start delayed once at the beginning and once in the middle by rain. Danny Espinosa made two diving plays that likely saved runs, and Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond both took away hits with diving stops.
The Nationals' first run of the year came via a walk, an error, a groundout and a sacrifice fly. Werth and Ryan Zimmerman got on base a combined eight times, setting the table for others instead of driving in runs because they're the best on-base options the Nationals have. And Rick Ankiel, who struck the game's biggest blow with a two-run homer, added an insurance run on a suicide squeeze when manager Jim Riggleman opted for small ball in a matchup with a tough lefty.
With the Braves' infield back and George Sherrill on the mound, Ankiel bunted a 1-1 slider perfectly in front of the plate, scoring Zimmerman and giving the Nationals a 5-2 lead.
"I just got (the sign) before the pitch, and once you get it, I think the guessing game's on of what he's going to throw," Ankiel said. "You just try to get it down, and luckily, I did."
It's not the Nationals' ideal method by any means, but executing it well is going to be their best hope for now.
"I'm really encouraged by the way we played defense," Riggleman said. "We ran the bases, got signs, little fundamental stuff. We played good baseball today, and Lannan did a good job for us."