Bullpen performance saves Orioles against Nationals

BALTIMORE -- Nolan Reimold took a swing, and the ball soared off his bat into the sky.

The ball was too high for Reimold to follow its path, so he looked at Washington left fielder Josh Willingham to try to get a read on the distance. Willingham couldn't track it either; he threw his arms up in bewilderment as he waited for it to land.

By the time gravity did its job, the ball touched down in the second row of the left-field seats. The three-run homer gave the Baltimore Orioles their first lead, and they went on to beat the Nationals 6-3 Saturday night.

Gregg Zaun and Aubrey Huff had solo shots for the Orioles, who turned four double plays and received a strong performance from their bullpen in besting their neighbors down Route 295.

The game turned on Reimold's unusual homer, a towering fly in the fifth inning that seemingly had as much height as it did distance.

"I thought when I hit it that I got it, but then you never know if it's going to carry or not," said Reimold, a rookie who know has nine homers in 39 games.

Willingham didn't have a clue.

"I never saw it. When a ball's hit up really high in the twilight, especially when it's right at you, it's just hard to pick up," Willingham said. "I knew it was coming at me, but as far as depth wise I had no idea."

Looking at Willingham, who never lifted his glove to make a play, gave Reimold an indication that something good was going to happen.

"I figured I was going to get a hit no matter what, that it was going to fall if it didn't carry out," Reimold said.

The home run put Baltimore up 4-3, and that was enough for the Orioles bullpen. After starter Jeremy Guthrie (6-7) allowed three runs in five shaky innings, four Baltimore relievers limited the Nationals to three hits the rest of the way.

Matt Albers worked out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth, Jim Johnson pitched two shutout innings and George Sherrill worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save.

Zaun had three hits for the Orioles, who will seek to complete a three-game sweep Sunday.

Nationals starter Shairon Martis (5-3) pitched well into the fifth, but Reimold's freakish homer proved to be his undoing.

"He got a pretty good swing on it and hit a home run," the right-hander said. "I knew it was gone."

Nationals manager Manny Acta said, "I thought [Martis] played with fire the whole game and then finally ended up getting burned."

In the sixth, Washington loaded the bases with no outs against Brian Bass. Albers got Ronnie Belliard to hit into a force play at the plate, and Austin Kearns bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.

Huff made it 5-3 in the seventh with his 10th homer, a no-doubt liner into the right-field seats off Joe Beimel, and Brian Roberts added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

"The add-on runs were really big," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

Washington took advantage of a wild stretch by Guthrie to go up 2-0 in the first inning. After two singles and a walk loaded the bases, Adam Dunn drew a walk to force in a run. Willingham struck out and Josh Bard walked before Belliard hit into a double play on Guthrie's 39th pitch.

"The first inning set the tone," Acta said. "I think we should have at least scored four runs in that inning.

In the bottom half, Luke Scott struck out with the bases loaded and two outs.

Zaun homered in the second to get Baltimore within a run, but Washington made it 3-1 in the fourth when Willingham doubled and scored on a single by Kearns. It was Kearns' first RBI in 34 games since May 7.

Game notes
Matt Hobgood, the fifth overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, signed with Baltimore before the game and was introduced to the crowd after the second inning. ... Nationals 1B Nick Johnson was rested after being hit by pitches on the shin and toe on same leg by pitches on successive nights. ... Washington's Cristian Guzman had two hits, his 29th multihit game of the season.