Streaking Nats complete three-game sweep of O's

Nationals 3, Orioles 1

BALTIMORE (AP) -- It had been more than a year since the Washington Nationals swept a series on the road, yet the clubhouse was remarkably subdued after their third straight win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Maybe it's because the Nationals aren't really surprised by their recent run of success.

Ryan Zimmerman singled in the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning to back Jason Simontacchi's best start of the season and the Nationals completed a sweep of the Orioles with a 3-1 victory Thursday night.

Felipe Lopez and Ryan Langerhans had an RBI apiece for the Nationals, who have won five of six. It was Washington's second sweep of the season, its first on the road since June 2006 in Milwaukee.

"Regardless of what people have said about this team, we knew we could win. Now we're playing well," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "We have played well on the road. We won two in Minnesota and a sweep here. ... We feel we have showed we can play with anybody."

There was talk early in the season of the Nationals losing at least 100 games. Now they've got the same record as the Orioles (29-37).

"We knew we could compete with anyone," reliever Jon Rauch said. "Now we're playing well and showing that we can."

Simontacchi (4-4) allowed one run, nine hits and four walks in seven-plus innings. The only other time this season he gave up fewer than three runs was on May 23 against Cincinnati, when he yielded one run but couldn't get out of the sixth inning.

Jay Gibbons drove in the lone run for the Orioles, who stranded 11. Baltimore has lost five straight and 10 of 12 to fall to a season-high eight games under .500.

"Its been frustrating, this whole stretch we've been on," said Kevin Millar, who went 2-for-2 with two walks. "We've lost a lot of one-run games. We haven't gotten a big hit in the right situation. But we can't feel sorry for ourselves. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us."

Asked if the Orioles had reached a new low in already distressing season, manager Sam Perlozzo replied, "We're eight games under. I'd say so."

Perlozzo denied feeling the heat, but he was tossed from a game for the second time in seven days.

"I'm not getting ejected because I'm frustrated," he said. "I've put up with it until a week or so ago. I think I've been pretty patient."

Simontacchi was lifted after Miguel Tejada led off the eighth with a single. Billy Traber walked Aubrey Huff, and Rauch came in to face Jay Payton, who struck out trying to bunt. Payton was thrown from the game for protesting the third strike call, and Perlozzo was ejected while continuing the argument.

Rauch got out of the inning by striking out Paul Bako with the bases loaded and two outs.

Chad Cordero worked a perfect ninth for his 10th save.

Washington took a 2-1 lead in the eighth against Chad Bradford (0-3). Cristian Guzman hit a leadoff single, moved to second on a bunt by Lopez and scored on Zimmerman's single up the middle.

Langerhans hit an RBI single in the ninth.

Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, striking out five and issuing two costly walks. The rookie has a 1.71 ERA in nine starts this season but is 2-1 with six no-decisions in those games.

Guthrie got the first two outs in the fifth and then issued consecutive walks before Lopez hit a ground-rule double to center to put the Nationals up 1-0. Guthrie avoided further damage when Tejada made a leaping catch of Zimmerman's liner to short.

Baltimore tied it in the sixth. Huff led off with a double and took third on a bunt before Gibbons hit a sacrifice fly -- his first RBI since May 14.

Early in the game, the Orioles botched several scoring opportunities.

Huff flied out with two on and two out in the first; Brian Roberts grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the second; and Melvin Mora was picked off second base in the third inning before Tejada hit into a double play.

"I was kind of erratic out there," Simontacchi said, "but I kept getting out of holes."

Baltimore, consequently, has dug itself into a deep ditch.

"We're pressing. What you're seeing is guys trying to do too much," Perlozzo said. "It's not a lack of effort. It's too much effort."

Game notes
Simontacchi has picked off four runners this season, all at second base. ... Nationals outfielder Ryan Church missed the game with a leg injury. ... It was the first time in 21 games that Baltimore failed to take the lead.