Nats' bats stay hot in douple-dip sweep

Nats' bats stay hot in douple-dip sweep

DENVER -- The Nationals continued their hot hitting as they defeated the Rockies, 6-3, and swept a doubleheader at Coors Field on Thursday. For the series, Washington took three out of four games.

In the first game, outfielder Lastings Milledge drove in a career-high four runs and helped the Nationals defeat the Rockies, 6-3.

Milledge went 5-for-9 in the twin bill and raised his batting average to .250.

"Today, I got pitches that are in my hot spot," Milledge said. "To be a great hitter, you have to capitalize on those consistently -- day in and day out. Hopefully, I can be consistent."

In Game 2, Milledge played a role in the Nationals taking the lead in second inning. With right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound and the Rockies ahead, 2-0, Washington scored four runs.

Emilio Bonifacio drove in the first run with a single to right field. Willie Harris then doubled home Odalis Perez and Bonifacio to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. Milledge then singled to right to drive in Harris.

The Nationals added to their lead in the fifth inning, when Wil Nieves drove in two runs with a double.

The offense has been jelling since last weekend, when they swept the Reds in a three-game series at Nationals Park, and the players believe that Bonifacio has been the difference. He provides speed at the top of the lineup and consistently gets on base. Since being promoted to the big leagues last week, Bonifacio is 8-for-22 (.364) with five runs scored.

"He makes a difference because he is in the top of the lineup. If we had a guy in the beginning that likes to get on base, steal bases, hitting triples, scoring runs, it would be different," Perez said. "We have Cristian [Guzman]. Cristian is a great hitter, but he didn't steal too much. He is not known for his speed, but Bonifacio makes a difference in our game."

Hitting coach Lenny Harris went so far as to say that Bonifacio has been electric and compared him to former teammate Juan Pierre, who was a catalyst when the Marlins won the World Series in 2003.

"With that speed in front of the lineup, he puts pressure on the defense," Harris said. "He has been outstanding. That what we thought we would have early in the season and let Ryan Zimmerman drive in runs, but when everybody got hurt, there's nothing you can do. But we found a piece of the puzzle."

During this nice little run, outfielder Ryan Langerhans noticed that the team is more patient at the plate and not making first-pitch outs like it did during their nine-game losing streak.

"Everyone has a pretty good game plan," said Langerhans, who walked three times in the second game of the doubleheader. "We don't seem to be making a lot of first-pitch outs or outs where we are ahead in the count. Even if we make an out on the first pitch now, we have guys hitting it on the barrel and taking a good swing at it."

Perez won his fifth game of the year. He pitched six innings, giving up two runs on six hits. Perez's cutter was not working in the first inning, as he gave up a two-run homer to Garrett Atkins.

After that, Perez threw predominantly fastballs the rest of the way.

"I found out that in the first inning, my cutter was not working," Perez said. "I said, 'Let me throw my fastball and sinker away.' Once in a while, I threw the changeup. Everything was together except the first inning.

Right-hander Joel Hanrahan picked up both saves of the doubleheader. The last player to do it for the franchise was Expos right-hander John Wetteland on July 7, 1992.

Washington has won six out of its past seven games and improved its record to 44-71.

"We have new life, new energy. They enjoy being around each other right now," manager Manny Acta said. "They are playing clean baseball. ... And we are executing at the plate. Winnings is contagious, so everybody is feeling pretty high."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.