- The Washington Times
Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yunesky Maya arrived in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse five minutes before 6 p.m. and took the locker next to Ian Desmond. Danny Espinosa and Desmond lent Maya hangers for his jersey. When the clubhouse was closed to reporters at 6 p.m., the deal to send Saturday’s scheduled starter, Jason Marquis, to Arizona in exchange for a minor league shortstop still had not been confirmed.

On top of his last-minute arrival, Maya was, at least on paper, at a distinct disadvantage. In four previous starts for the Nationals this season, he had given up 15 runs in 19 2/3 innings for 6.86 ERA. The New York Mets, who were riding a five-game road winning streak — after beating the Nationals 8-5 on Friday — had scored eight or more runs in four straight games.

In spite of every obstacle, the 29-year-old earned his first major league win, shutting down the Mets’ surging offense to lead Washington to a 3-0 victory. In 5 1/3 innings, he scattered five hits without walking a batter, and helped end the Nationals’ season-high, six-game losing streak.

“I feel really good — that’s what I worked for, to go out there and give it my best,” Maya said through an interpreter. “Thank goodness I got my first win. I’m really happy. My sinker was my go-to pitch today. It was working for me. I was working on that with my pitching coach in Triple-A. I always keep working on my sinker. I was hitting my spots.”

Maya was pulled in the sixth inning after giving up two consecutive one-out hits. Manager Davey Johnson said he was concerned about his pitcher after he strained an oblique while trying to avoid a tag at second base in the bottom of the fifth.

Johnson said Maya was likely headed to the disabled list. Maya, however, said that he had taken medication and the trainer told him he’d be fine and would be re-evaluated on a day-by-day basis.

All the offense came in the first inning against Mets starter R.A. Dickey on Jayson Werth’s 12th home run of the year. With two outs, Werth celebrated his bobblehead night by launching a three-run home run off a 79-mph knuckleball.

“If they throw a good [knuckleball], you’re not going to hit it,” he said. “If it’s one that doesn’t do a whole lot, you have a pretty good chance of hitting it. It’s just a matter of getting one you can hit and putting a good swing on it.”

Werth entered Saturday batting .310 in his last eight games. He finished the night 2-for-3 with an intentional walk.

“I’m tired of saying I’m close, but I’m working in the right direction,” Werth said. “I know why — it’s just a matter of having the right swing during the game.”

The bullpen would hold up Maya’s shutout, as Ross Detwiler and Tyler Clippard each pitched 1 1/3 innings without giving up a run. Drew Storen loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth, but worked out of the jam to earn his 26th save of the season.

“We’ve had a rough streak. We’ve been battling with adversity all year,” Storen said. “We bounced back today and played well. It came together. [Werth] had some big hits. He stepped it up big tonight. I think that’s going to be a huge help. It’s something we can build off tomorrow.”

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