WASHINGTON – With Washington’s pitching staff in disarray, John Patterson gave the Nationals exactly what they desperately needed: a long, strong outing.

Patterson scattered 10 hits over 8 1-3 innings, working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh, to lead Washington to a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.

Patterson wasn’t dominant, giving up three runs, and allowing leadoff singles in every inning from the fourth through the seventh. He gave up Rich Aurilia’s RBI double in the fourth, and Javier Valentin’s two-run homer in the ninth, but the right-hander truly excelled when he needed to in improving to 8-4.

After Valentin’s 11th homer, closer Chad Cordero came on and got the final two outs for his major league-leading 40th save.

The biggest jam for Patterson came in the seventh, with the Nationals clinging to a 2-1 lead thanks to Jose Guillen’s solo homer off Reds starter Ramon Ortiz (8-9) in the fifth. Sean Casey and Valentin singled, and Austin Kearns was hit by a pitch to fill the bases.

But Patterson got Edwin Encarnacion to ground to first baseman Nick Johnson, who threw home for a forceout. Then Patterson struck out pinch-hitter Jacob Cruz, and got Felipe Lopez – 3-for-3 to that point – to tap a comebacker that Patterson easily tossed to first.

When that final out was recorded, the normally unflappable Patterson pumped his right fist a half-dozen times, then jogged and even skipped his way to the dugout.

The Nationals padded their lead to 5-1 in the seventh against reliever Jason Standridge, who gave up three runs and three hits and walked two in his one inning. The big hit was Vinny Castilla’s two-run double.

The Nationals first run came in the first, when Ryan Church singled, Johnson doubled off the wall in right, and Guillen was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Preston Wilson. He grounded out, scoring Church for a 1-0 lead.

Guillen led off the fifth with a line shot to left on a 1-2 pitch. It was his 23rd homer of the season and only his third at RFK Stadium – but second in two nights. Ortiz gave up two runs and six hits and walked two over six innings.

Not bad, but not enough against Patterson, who is 6-0 at home this season. He finished with eight strikeouts and one walk.

It was a big boost for the Nationals, who put starter Ryan Drese on the disabled list Tuesday night, and are waiting to see if Tony Armas Jr.’s sore shoulder will prevent him from taking the mound this weekend. Washington might have to dip into the minor leagues for starters Saturday and Sunday. Plus, reliever Luis Ayala is day to day.

So before the game, manager Frank Robinson talked about the importance of getting top-notch starting pitching from Patterson and Livan Hernandez on Thursday.

“If they can get through their normal-type games, going deep into the game, we’ll be able to handle the weekend with the people we have right here,” Robinson said.

Patterson certainly delivered.

After allowing a game-opening single to Lopez – who then was caught stealing for the first of two times on the night – Patterson retired eight straight batters, five with strikeouts. The last two outs of the third: Encarnacion looking at a 71 mph changeup, and Ortiz looking at a 68 mph offering.

Notes: Patterson doubled in the fourth, his third hit of the season. … Washington finished with nine hits; SS Jamey Carroll was the only member of the starting lineup without one, but he walked twice. … Guillen made a fielding error for the second straight night. He had five errors in 115 games before Tuesday.

AP-ES-08-24-05 2147EDT

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