Cordero returns to close out Indians in Nats' victory


• Summary: Jason Simontacchi matched a season high with six strikeouts, Jesus Flores drove in two runs, and Chad Cordero got the save in the Nationals' series-deciding win over the Indians.


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• What a relief! After blowing a two-run lead in Saturday's game, Cordero came back Sunday with a relatively clean ninth to record his 13th save in 19 chances.

• Figure this: Washington and Cleveland each finished interleague play 9-9.

• Unsung heroes: Ron Belliard and Dmitri Young combined for five of the Nationals' eight hits and scored all three of the team's runs.

• Tough crowd: Washington Wizards All-Star guard Caron Butler's ceremonial first pitch landed about 10-feet short of home plate, prompting scattered boos throughout RFK Stadium.

-- news services

Nationals 3, Indians 1

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jason Simontacchi and Jesus Flores could be considered the Washington Nationals' odd couple.

The differences between the roommates are unmistakable, but the pitcher and catcher both played key roles in the Nationals' 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.

After devising a pitching plan at their three-bedroom apartment Saturday night, Simontacchi shut down the Indians for six innings and Flores drove in two runs to help Washington take two of three in the series.

"It was a matter of us staying with the game plan, and it worked," Simontacchi said.

Simontacchi, a 33-year-old journeyman from California, and Flores, a 22-year-old Venezuelan playing in his first major league season, were both looking for an apartment earlier this spring. They decided it was logical to live together.

Flores is Washington's backup catcher, so he doesn't regularly catch Simontacchi. But with Flores calling pitches Sunday, Simontacchi rebounded from a miserable outing in his previous start. He allowed one run and four hits with one walk. In a 15-1 loss to Detroit on Tuesday, the right-hander gave up a franchise-record tying 10 runs on 10 hits in three innings.

Simontacchi (5-5) tried to forget about the Detroit game and focus on throwing his curveball. He matched a season high with six strikeouts.

"He's a very positive, upbeat type of guy, but he's also a thinker, which at times can work against you," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "He thinks a lot and overanalyzes things a little bit. ... He's got pretty good stuff. All he's got to do is trust it and let it work for him."

The news wasn't all good for Washington, though. Shortstop Cristian Guzman sprained his left thumb while tagging out Josh Barfield at second base on a steal attempt in the fifth inning. Guzman, who is hitting .329, didn't leave the game but was placed on the 15-day disabled list afterward.

Like Simontacchi, Nationals closer Chad Cordero also bounced back from a bad outing. He got three outs for his 13th save in 19 chances -- less than 24 hours after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Washington's 4-3 loss Saturday.

"He threw a few more sliders, and there's a difference when guys are just sitting looking for one pitch or when they have to be thinking about two," Acta said. "He mixed his pitches well today and got it done."

Ronnie Belliard went 3-for-3 and Dmitri Young scored twice for the Nationals, who won a home series for the first time in six tries.

Jake Westbrook (1-3) came off the disabled list and pitched seven solid innings for Cleveland in his first start since May 2. He gave up three runs and seven hits, struck out two and walked none. He had been on the DL with an abdominal injury.

"Anytime out you get a little nervous, but this one was a little more nervous," Westbrook said. "I still felt good about where I was. I was able to calm my nerves and settle down."

Cleveland scored a season-low five runs in the three-game series.

"The inconsistencies we're having at the plate can't continue to happen. We've got to fix it," manager Eric Wedge said.

Young led off the second inning by reaching on a hard comebacker that deflected off Westbrook's left forearm for an infield single. With one out, Young advanced to third on Belliard's single. Flores then broke out of his 1-for-23 slump with a two-out single up the middle that scored Young.

Washington added a run in the fourth. Young began the inning with a double to right, moved to third on Belliard's one-out single and scored on Ryan Langerhans' sacrifice fly.

Franklin Gutierrez homered off Simontacchi in the fifth.

Flores drove home an insurance run with a groundout in the seventh. Belliard led off with a double and went to third on Langerhans' sacrifice. With the infield in, Flores hit a high bouncer to shortstop that was deep enough for Belliard to race home.

Game notes
Washington and Cleveland each finished interleague play 9-9. ... Simontacchi struck out a career-high nine for St. Louis on May 2, 2003. He has recorded a decision in each of his starts this year. ... Washington Wizards All-Star Caron Butler threw out the ceremonial first pitch. His toss landed well short of home plate and prompted some boos.