WASHINGTON - It was with mixed emotions that John Patterson ambled slowly off the mound and took a seat in the dugout with one out in the ninth inning of last night's 5-3 Washington Nationals' victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Sure, Patterson had just allowed a two-run homer to Javier Valentin. Sure, he had wanted to finish the game.
But it was not all bad. Patterson said he would rather pitch pretty well and win - which he did last night - than pitch brilliantly and lose. The latter scenario has unfolded all too many times this season, and the right-hander said he was getting tired of moral victories.
"Of course, I wanted to finish it. I wanted it bad," Patterson said. "But when all is said and done, the team got the win."
Nationals manager Frank Robinson had pointed to the game - as well as tonight's in which ace Livan Hernandez is scheduled to pitch - as key for Washington. Robinson said the club, vying for a wild-card berth, needs to win games in which their best pitchers are playing at home.
Patterson (8-4), who allowed three runs on 10 hits, struck out eight. He extended his home record to 6-0. Patterson had lost a 1-0 game to the New York Mets in his previous start. He had allowed two runs or less in 17 of 23 starts entering last night's game, and his 2.38 ERA was third in the league.
Patterson said the "accumulated stress" of the season is starting to take a toll.
"Mentally, I was just drained. I was tired. I just tried to keep pitching. When you're pitching in one-run games all the time over the course of 4 1/2 months of the season, it wears on you."
Ahead 2-1, he almost lost it in the seventh, when the Reds loaded the bases with no outs. But Patterson got Edwin Encarnacion to ground into a force at the plate. Pinch hitter Jacob Cruz struck out and Felipe Lopez grounded out.
The normally stoic Patterson seemed positively buoyant as the inning ended.
"I was pretty emotional tonight," he said.
Patterson did not allow a ball to reach the outfield in facing the minimum nine hitters through three innings. But Lopez led off the fourth with a single and scored on Rich Aurilia's ground-rule double down the left field line to make it 1-1.
Jose Guillen's line-drive homer to left leading off the fifth made it 2-1. It was his 23rd of the year and the second night in a row he had homered after hitting just one at RFK Stadium this season before the current homestand began.
The Nationals stretched their lead to 5-1 in the seventh.
A walk, a single and Brian Schneider's RBI single made it 3-1. Vinny Castilla followed with a double to the wall in right center, scoring two more runs.
NOTES: Starter Tony Armas Jr. had an injection in his ailing right shoulder and won't throw for a couple of days, team doctor Weimi Douoguih said. ... Reliever Luis Ayala had a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his right elbow that confirmed the original diagnosis of tendinitis, and he was listed as day-to-day.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.