WASHINGTON – Austin Kearns’ sacrifice fly with the bases loaded off San Francisco closer Armando Benitez capped a two-run rally in the ninth inning, lifting Washington past the Giants 4-3 on Wednesday night, the Nationals’ fifth consecutive victory.

Benitez (4-2) came on to start the ninth with a 3-2 lead. But the right-hander walked leadoff batter Robert Fick, and, after striking out Alfonso Soriano, he gave up an infield single to Felipe Lopez. Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single tied the game, and Benitez then walked Nick Johnson to fill the bases.

That brought up Kearns, who’s been adjusting to life with his new team since this month’s eight-player trade that brought him to Washington from Cincinnati.

It was Benitez’s sixth blown save this season, in 19 chances. The Giants were 40-4 when leading after eight innings this season.

The comeback gave Saul Rivera (1-0) his first major league victory. He was Washington’s fourth reliever, and threw a perfect ninth.

Randy Winn’s two-run single in the seventh inning had put San Francisco ahead, despite another quiet night for Barry Bonds.

Bonds went 0-for-2 with two walks, a strikeout and a groundout, making him 0-for-6 in the series. He’s 2-for-12 without a home run over his last five games, leaving him stuck on 722 homers, 33 behind career leader Hank Aaron.

Bonds wasn’t booed quite as much as during Tuesday night’s series opener, but he still heard jeers, including after a running catch in left of Ryan Church’s sinking liner in the fourth.

Giants starter Noah Lowry gave up two unearned runs and eight hits over six innings.

Washington starter Pedro Astacio was charged with three runs – two earned – and six hits. The right-hander took a 2-1 lead into the seventh, but Todd Greene reached on second baseman Marlon Anderson’s fielding error, and Todd Linden – pinch hitting for Lowry – doubled to right. Reliever Mike Stanton came on, and gave up Winn’s hit.

Washington’s first two runs came in the third.

Soriano – at the center of speculation as Monday’s trade deadline nears – legged out a double, beating center fielder Steve Finley’s throw. He moved to third when Lowry had him picked off but second baseman Ray Durham’s throw hit Soriano in the back for an error. Soriano then scored on Zimmerman’s double to left-center, the rookie’s NL-leading 41st hit with a runner in scoring position. That became 42 in the ninth.

After Johnson walked, Kearns singled to right to score Zimmerman. But right fielder Winn threw out Johnson as he strayed off second base on the play, ending the inning.

Durham, who hit two homers Tuesday, doubled in San Francisco’s first run in the fourth after Bonds walked. He’s second in the NL with 85 walks, five behind Philadelphia’s Bobby Abreu.

Notes: Giants SS Omar Vizquel left in the fifth inning with a bruised right foot. The team said X-rays showed nothing was broken, and he was listed as day-to-day. … Nationals RHP Brian Lawrence said he probably will wait until spring training to return from the shoulder surgery that has sidelined him all season. … Giants RHP Matt Morris’ right forearm felt stiff Wednesday, a day after it was hit by a line drive, but he anticipates making his scheduled start Sunday at Pittsburgh. … Giants OF Moises Alou (left hamstring) was limited to pinch-hitting duty for the third straight game. … Attorney General Alberto Gonzales attended the game.

AP-ES-07-26-06 2225EDT



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