Another ninth-inning meltdown by Joel Hanrahan cost the Nationals their second win of the season.
Less than 17 hours after blowing a one-run lead to the Marlins, Hanrahan blew a three-run lead to Florida Saturday afternoon, serving up a game-tying homer to Jeremy Hermida that forced extra innings. Two innings later, Hermida belted a three-run homer off Wil Ledezma, capping an excruciating 9-6, 11-inning loss before a crowd of 19,864 that had plenty to boo about.
Washington’s ninth loss in 10 games this season and 19th in its last 22 games against the Marlins was as painful as any to date.
The Nationals led 6-3 heading into the ninth when Hanrahan took the ball, hoping to make up for his blown save last night. The new closer didn’t come through. He allowed a one-out single to Ross Gload to make it 6-4, then served up a two-out, two-run homer to Hermida to deep right-center field that brought groans from many in the crowd.
Julian Tavarez (0-1) got the 11th inning off to a ragged start, walking Gload and then uncorking a wild pitch. After shortstop Alberto Gonzalez threw away a routine toss to first for an error, manager Manny Acta summoned Ledezma from the bullpen to face the left-handed-hitting Hermida. Ledezma, who had been scored upon in each of his four previous outings, left a 1-2 slider over the plate and Hermida belted it to almost the exact same spot he homered two innings earlier.
Things had gone well for the Nationals for most of the afternoon, though they did suffer a tough loss in the eighth when center fielder Roger Bernadina sprained his right ankle while making a spectacular catch at the wall.
Bernadina, starting in center field after Elijah Dukes was benched by Acta for arriving late to the ballpark, caught his right foot at the base of the wall as he snagged Dan Uggla’s deep drive. He had to be helped off the field by Acta and was taken to a waiting stretcher. Bernadina was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and was due to undergo precautionary X-rays.
Dukes had been announced as Washington’s original center fielder and No. 5 hitter, but the young slugger arrived five minutes late for the team’s pre-batting practice stretch and was benched by Acta, a move the manager did not make two weeks ago when Lastings Milledge was late for a team meeting in Miami.
The Nationals didn’t miss the absence of Dukes’ bat in this one, scoring five runs in the bottom of the first off Johnson, with Austin Kearns delivering a grand slam into the left-field bleachers that brought a roar from the crowd of 19,864.
Washington added another run in the second on Nick Johnson’s RBI single but was silenced the rest of the afternoon at the plate.
Scott Olsen tried to make sure no more offense was necessary. The left-hander tossed the team’s third straight quality start, going seven innings and allowing three runs (two earned). Olsen ran into some trouble in the second, allowing the Marlins to get two of their runs back, but bounced back strong and retired 17 of the last 21 men he faced.
Joe Beimel then pitched a scoreless eighth to set the stage for Hanrahan.