Johnson homers in Nats' win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's little respite in baseball, what with 162 games crammed into six months, road trips giving way to homestands, rare days off and those occasional 1:05 p.m. starts following post-midnight finishes.

So it's vital to put bad days in the past quickly. The Washington Nationals are learning to do just that, and Chicago Cubs
infielder Neifi Perez knows he has to after a miserable Sunday.

Perez's two errors at second base during a rainy sixth inning helped Washington score the go-ahead run, and he went also hitless in the Nationals' 5-4 victory over the Cubs.

"I don't have excuses," Perez said. "It's the hardest day in baseball that you don't want to see, but you have to go through: 0-for-5 and two errors in one inning. But you have to forget about today and come back tomorrow."

To be fair, Washington did plenty to aid its own cause in winning a second straight game after making three errors in Friday's 6-3 series-opening loss.

Nick Johnson hit a two-run homer off Greg Maddux in the fifth; right fielder Jose Guillen, ignoring his painful ribs, crashed into the wall to catch Derrek Lee's deep drive in the seventh; and Hector Carrasco (1-0) got the Nationals out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth and earned his first victory since Sept. 4, 2003.

Carrasco came on in relief of John Patterson and got Corey Patterson to fly out with his only pitch of the day.

"If he doesn't get that guy out, and gives up a base hit there, it can bust the game open," said John Patterson, whose two walks and wild pitch allowed Chicago to take a 2-0 lead in the first with just one hit.

The right-hander gave up four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, and three of the four batters he walked scored. He and Maddux both called for the grounds crew to add dirt to RFK Stadium's troublesome mound. Rain delayed the start of Saturday night's game by 2 hours, 40 minutes -- it finished at about 12:30 a.m. -- and drops began falling in the fourth inning Sunday.

Maddux credited the crew with doing "a superb job." John Patterson wasn't as blase.

"I don't want to make excuses on it, but they've got to do something with the mound," Patterson said. "I slid on 90 percent of my pitches."

Said Nationals manager Frank Robinson: "It's like trial and error in a way. We're going to have some problems probably all year long."

And Cubs manager Dusty Baker thought a "chopped up" infield might have contributed to Perez's miscues, saying: "Neifi doesn't miss balls."

With the score 4-4 in the sixth and Chicago's Cliff Bartosh
(0-2) on the mound, Ryan Church reached when Perez bobbled his grounder and didn't make a throw.

After Brian Schneider sacrificed Church to second, Cristian Guzman hit another grounder to Perez, who didn't get his glove all the way down, allowing the ball to roll underneath and ricochet off his left ankle. Church beat the throw home from shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

"We got some help today, and we needed it," Robinson said. "The way we played the first ballgame of the series, I thought it was very important to come back and take the series and get some momentum."

After his 2004 Montreal Expos went 16-30 in one-run games, Robinson said all spring that the Nationals' success would depend greatly on how they fared in such contests. They're getting plenty of practice lately, including in six of the past seven games, going
3-3. They're 6-5 overall in one-run games.

"This team is a team that's not going to give up, no matter what," center fielder Brad Wilkerson said. "It showed a lot of guts for this team to win two in a row."

Wilkerson used that same word -- "guts" -- in describing Guillen's defensive gem in the seventh. Guillen has been playing through pain for more than a week, knowing that while his throwing and hitting are limited, he can still chip in.

"I've been thinking about shutting it down," Guillen said. "If I need to take two, three days off, I will."

That would add to Washington's string of injuries. The Nationals put infielder Henry Mateo (right shoulder) on the disabled list Sunday, joining second baseman Jose Vidro (left ankle), lefty reliever Joey Eischen (broken right arm), outfielder Terrmel Sledge
(right hamstring surgery) and five others.

Despite that, the Nationals are 20-17.

"We don't talk about it, and we don't worry about in the clubhouse. We just put somebody else in there," Robinson said. "When you start worrying about things and complaining about things and letting things bother you, such as injuries or not getting
calls and things like that, it gets in your head."

Game notes
Johnson's fifth homer came after Maddux walked Guillen on four pitches, and it put Washington ahead 4-3. Maddux allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings. ... Luis Ayala pitched two innings of one-hit relief for Washington, and Chad Cordero worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save.