If the Nationals are going to continue their assault on the Wild Card Race, they will need strong pitching performances from John Patterson. Last night, they got one. Patterson pitched a complete game while giving up only one run on three hits in a 5-1 victory. Patterson gave up one in the first and then shut down the Padres the rest of the way. He faced only two batters above the minimum, gave up only two hits after Ramon Hernandez' first-inning home run, and retired the last 14 batters he faced. It was another dominant performance from Patterson.
The Nationals' offense was also operating in high gear, led by an unlikely source--Cristian Guzman. Guzman doubled in two in the fifth and tripled in one in the ninth for three RBIs. He is now hitting .207 and suddenly everyone things he's Derek Jeter. The Nationals scored four times off Jake Peavy, who is becoming one of the best pitchers in the National League. In other words, this was a very good offensive performance against a very good pitcher.
Houston won, so the Nats remain 2.5 games back. They are .5 games back of Philly and 1.5 games back of Florida. Their odds of making the playoffs have risen, but were still in single-digit territory--about 4.5. The chances are still slim, but if the Nats keep playing this way they can play themselves back into the race.