We’ll get to the Nats’ 8-5, 10-inning loss to the Pirates on Tuesday in just a moment, but first some roster moves that came after the game…
— Elijah Dukes has been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring. You had to see this one coming, especially after Dukes struggled to get through a workout session this afternoon in front of Manny Acta and Mike Rizzo. “We can’t be handcuffed having a player [on the active roster] and not being able to use him,” Acta said. “So we’re just going to rehab him the best way possible until he’s 100 percent.”
— Justin Maxwell will be recalled from Syracuse on Wednesday and will take over in center field, splitting time with Willie Harris. Maxwell hit .375 in his six-game stint up here last month, and you’ve got to think the Nats want to get a good look at him in center field and see if he’s ready to assume the job permanently.
— Meanwhile, Alex Cintron has been designated for assignment, ending an experiment that went horribly wrong. Cintron was dismal for this team, going 2-for-26 with two walks and playing shaky defense on the few occasions he was allowed to put on his glove.
— Cintron won’t be replaced by another infielder, though. Instead, the Nats will recall reliever Jason Bergmann, giving them an eight-man bullpen. It came down to priorities. “We need it,” Acta said. “We certainly need another arm back there. I think Bergmann’s pitched well enough down there … He’s going to come up here and try to help us out.”
OK, as for this latest loss.
— The Nats trailed 5-0 early, rallied to get to 5-4 heading into the ninth and then tied it when Sean Burnett bounced a pitch in the dirt with one out and allowed Nick Johnson to score from third. But with the winning run standing on second and only one out, Adam Dunn struck out swinging, and after Josh Willingham walked, Willie Harris was caught looking at a 2-2 slider right over the heart of the plate. It was the fifth straight slider thrown by Tom Gorzelanny, and Harris was kicking himself afterward for leaving the bat on his shoulder. “I got to know he’s going to do that,” Harris said. “I’m stubborn. I’m searching and hunting a fastball and he never threw one.”
The Nats bullpen had thrown three scoreless innings (two by Ron Villone, one by Joe Beimel) to that point, so there might have been some reason for hope even heading into the 10th. But deep down, you just had a feeling the bullpen was going to blow it at some point. And sure enough, Beimel gave up three runs in the top of the 10th to seal Washington’s sixth straight loss to open this homestand.
You can blame the bullpen again for this one, and certainly that would be fair. But really, the 10th inning never should have happened. The Nats had a chance to win it in the ninth, and they couldn’t do it.
As Acta said: “We needed to finish the game right there.”