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Nationals' relievers preserve win

April 21, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thanks to a suddenly stout bullpen, the Washington Nationals finally have their first winning streak of 2009.

Adam Dunn homered, Washington's beleaguered relievers tossed three scoreless innings for the second day in a row and the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 Tuesday night for their second consecutive win.

Played following a 61-minute rain delay, this game was filled with all sorts of miscues: Three errors, other misplays in the field, a few running mistakes, failed sacrifice bunt attempts and more.

Shairon Martis (2-0) went six innings and gave up three runs -- two earned.

Then came the procession of Nationals relievers: Mike Hinckley went 1 2/3 innings, Julian Tavarez got one out, and closer Joel Hanrahan had an adventurous ninth. But after a walk and double put two runners on with none out, Hanrahan got the next three batters. He has converted his last two save chances after blowing his first two of the season.

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The Nationals gave away ninth-inning leads Friday, Saturday and Sunday against the Marlins, precipitating a revamping of Washington's relief corps. While Hinckley, Tavarez and Hanrahan were not part of the roster moves, they appear to have gotten the message.

Martis worked his way in and out of trouble -- his lone 1-2-3 inning was the second -- but he only allowed runs in the first. He got himself in a tight spot with two outs by walking Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.

Casey Kotchman delivered an RBI double to right-center. Jeff Francoeur then hit a sharp groundball that shortstop Alberto Gonzalez grabbed at the edge of the outfield grass. Gonzalez's throw got past first baseman Nick Johnson, and two runs scored on the play. Francoeur was credited with an RBI single; Gonzalez was charged with a throwing error that allowed the second run, and Atlanta led 3-0.

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