Willingham Remains Hot, Nats Win

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Willingham continues to swing a hot bat.

    Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham is healthy and feeling good -- a hot streak helps of course.

    He continued his hot streak Sunday. Willingham had a two-run homer as part of a three-run seventh inning as Washington rallied for a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    After getting two hits, scoring two runs, and driving in three, Willingham is hitting .331 with 16 homers and 40 RBIs in his past 66 games.

    "I've had good stretches before, and I've had some bad stretches... this is probably one of the better ones I've had," Willingham said. "I had a good one in '06 and a good one in '07."

    "I can't really explain it... I'm trying to just simplify everything, get a good pitch to hit and just hit it. I'm trying not to think about it too much. I think a lot of times you can get yourself in trouble if you're trying to think about it too much... It's just, get in there, see it and hit it."

    Willingham wasn't the only Nat to contribute Sunday in a battle of the National League's worse teams. Ryan Zimmerman had two hits and two runs, Alberto Gonzalez had two RBI and Mike MacDougal earned his seventh save in eight opportunities for the Nationals, who snapped a four-game losing streak.

    Ronny Cedeno and Delwyn Young homered to provide the offense for Pittsburgh, which has lost six of eight.

    Willingham's homer, to left after Zimmerman led off the inning with a single, was his first since hitting two grand slams in Milwaukee on Monday. He has scored at least a run in six of his past seven games and has 11 RBI in that time span.

    "The pitch was supposed to be down and away, and it was down and in," Pirates starter Paul Maholm (6-6) said. "It was a mistake, and he's a guy who's been hot. That's the guy you don't want to beat you."

    Willingham, who has 17 home runs this season and 16 since May 5, also drove in Zimmerman in the eighth with a double off of Jesse
    Chavez.

    "He's been real good just about all year," Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "He really had a couple huge hits for us today, just like he did in Milwaukee."

    Nationals rookie starter Collin Balester allowed two runs on five hits and two walks in 5 2-3 innings, striking out three.

    "It was a good outing," Balester said. "I felt like I just made a couple mistakes here and there, but other than that there was minimal damage."

    Nats reliever Sean Burnett improved to 2-2 after retiring the only batter he faced.