Josh Willingham was excited about being scheduled to get his first career start at first base Sunday before Austin Kearns was scratched due to illness. Instead Willingham would have to settle for going 2-3 with a homer and three RBI, leading the Nationals to a 5-3 victory over the Pirates.
Willingham executed the cleanup spot perfectly. The left fielder twice came to the plate after Ryan Zimmerman had reached base before him, and both times drove the all-star third baseman in. The first time came in the seventh when Willingham hit a two run homer to give the Nationals the lead 4-2, and the second when he doubled Zimmerman home in the eighth to give them the go ahead run.
With Willingham’s three RBI and two runs scored, he accounted for all but one Nationals runs last night.
Collin Balester took the hill for the Nats and provided a very quality start. Balester pitched five and two thirds innings allowing only five hits, two earned runs, a walk, and three strikeouts. The righty’s start kept the Nationals in the game allowing them to come from behind in the seventh.
The Nationals bullpen continued to do their job Sunday as they have very well over the last month.
Burnett, Bergmann, Villone and MacDougal all provided scoreless outings. The only man in the bullpen to allow an earned run last night was recently called up middle reliever Jorge Sosa, who allowed two hits and one run.
This series also saw Lastings Milledge’s return to the Majors, this time of course not with the Nationals, but with the Pirates.
The former future of the Nationals has gone 5/12 in the series, with one double and four RBI.
Will the Nationals regret letting Milledge go the way they did? I think so. Whether or not he will ever be that projected all-star that we believed he would be for all those years is unclear, however I think based on his 2008 season in Washington it’s clear that he at least has the talent and ability to be a starting outfielder on most Major League teams for the next 10 years.