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Olsen's gem punctuates solid homestand

Olsen's gem punctuates solid homestand

WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Scott Olsen atoned for a tough outing in his previous start on Sunday afternoon, pitching seven shutout innings in the Nationals' 1-0 win over the Dodgers at Nationals Park.

On Tuesday, Olsen lasted two-plus innings and gave up six runs on seven hits against Rockies. It looked like the lefty would have a similar outing against Los Angeles, as he was in serious trouble in the first inning. The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out, but Casey Blake struck out and Ronnie Belliard flied out to center field to end the threat.

Including Blake and Belliard, Olsen retired 13 out of the next 14 hitters he faced. It helped that his slider was his out pitch.

"We were down in the zone for the most part all day," Olsen said. "We got ahead in the count. The slider was working really well. We stayed with that."

Olsen was able to pitch his best game as a member of the Nationals even though the humidity affected him. Early in the game, Olsen was sweating profusely and manager Jim Riggleman didn't think Olsen would last as long as he did.

"But his concentration level was really at its peak," Riggleman said. "Every pitch, you could tell he was just driven to make a good pitch. He was battling. He made great pitches. He went further than I thought he could go after the way he started. It was not an easy day to pitch."

Olsen admitted that the humidity did bother him, but he was used to it after playing four years with the Marlins. He said the humidity made him focus more on the mound.

"I pitched a couple years in Florida, where it's 95 degrees and 100 percent humidity every day," Olsen said. "You just have to keep hydrating between innings. We have ammonia towels on the bench, which I like to do. I was trying to fight through it as best as I could. Today I was able to do that."

Blake, who went 2-for-3 in the game, didn't seem impressed with what Olsen accomplished Sunday.

"When he throws that little changeup at 85 [mph], it's not like a typical left-handed changeup or any changeup," Blake said. "It's almost like a batting-practice fastball that dives a little bit. We let him off the hook. A lot of times, you do that to a pitcher and the guy sticks around. That's what we did today."

Nyjer Morgan scored the Nationals' lone run in the first inning when Dodgers stater Chad Billingsley got Adam Dunn to groundout.

Right-handers Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps pitched the final two innings for Washington, with Capps picking up his eighth save of the season. The save was anything but easy. After giving up a leadoff double to Jamey Loney, Capps was able to get to get the final three outs thanks to two great defensive plays by second baseman Cristian Guzman and right fielder Justin Maxwell.

After the Loney double, Blake hit a hard shot to Guzman. The ball bounced on one hop, Guzman caught it, prevented pinch-runner Jamey Carroll from advancing to third and threw out Blake at first base.

Ronnie Belliard followed and blooped a ball that looked like a base hit. But Maxwell dove and made a nice diving catch for the second out of the inning.

"It was huge. I don't know if Carroll would have scored on it or not. It's two outs and it puts you in a better situation," Capps said.

Prior to the play, Maxwell didn't get a ball hit to him all day. But he had this feeling that since Capps throws hard, the hitters would be swinging late and balls could be hit his way.

"Right before the first pitch, I said, 'Get ready. The ball could be coming soon,'" Maxwell said.

The Nationals ended up going 6-4 on their 10-game homestand. All six of those victories were against teams that finished the 2009 season with a record over .500. Two of those teams were in the postseason.

The Nationals now go to Chicago to play a three-game series against the Cubs. Washington went 2-5 against the Cubs last year.

"It's huge for us," Capps said. "To have a winning homestand. Hopefully we can take this momentum on the road. It was great homestand all the way around. The guys play hard. We showed what we are all about. It was a good homestand, all the way around."

It's early in the season, but catcher Ivan Rodriguez sees similarities between the 2010 Nationals and the 2003 Marlins that beat the Yankees in the World Series. The previous season, before Rodriguez arrive in Florida, the Marlins finished under .500 for the fifth year in a row.

"In '03, I had a great team, and in [2010], we have a tremendous team, too," Rodriguez said. "That year, we did our best, every single day. That's what we are doing right now, too. We have young guys, a young pitching staff and everybody is doing great. We have to keep working."

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

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