The Washington Times - May 22, 2013, 11:58AM

SAN FRANCISCO — The Nationals were one out away from a much-needed victory Tuesday night when Gregor Blanco hit a triple to right field. The baserunner Rafael Soriano had allowed to open the inning scored. The game was blown. One inning later, Pablo Sandoval hit a walk-off homer.

After the game, Bryce Harper took the blame. The thought of hitting the wall, eight days after his gruesome collision with one at Dodger Stadium, entered his mind when he moved to field Blanco’s ball. He felt he could’ve caught the ball, but he didn’t.


He admitted it was an issue he’ll have to overcome. 

“It’s a young man taking responsibility,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday morning on his weekly radio show with the team’s flagship station. “I don’t agree with his assessment that he lost us the game. We had ample opportunity to tack on runs going into the latter innings and that’s something we have to improve on. If we’d been more efficient offensively earlier in the game it wouldn’t have come down to one misplay in the outfield.  

“That’s typical Harp. He feels he has a responsibility to make all the plays and get all the big hits. That’s what makes him so special. I think you’re seeing the maturation process of a young star right in front of our eyes. He’s a terrific player and obviously a terrific teammate.”

A few locker stalls down, though, apparently Rafael Soriano, who threw the slider that Blanco hit, was not pleased. 

“You know, like I say, one pitch,” Soriano said in a group post-game interview in English. “The first guy hit a ground ball up the middle. Not easy to get that ball. I talked to the guys, you’ve got two out, guy hits a ball, it’s got to be in front of you, not like what happened tonight… I think we can play a better game than that.” 

But Soriano’s criticism of the Nationals’ outfield positioning and Harper was harsher when he spoke in Spanish with USA Today late on Tuesday night. 

“With two outs and the tying run at first, you have to play the outfield so the ball doesn’t go over your head,” Soriano told the newspaper in Spanish. “It may not have been a catchable ball, but if we’re positioned the right way, there might’ve been a different outcome. With two outs, I could tell my 4-year-old son, ‘You know where you need to play,’ and he would go to the right spot and make the play.

“It’s not an excuse and I’m not speaking badly about anybody, but I think that’s how you play the game.”

This is not the first time that Soriano has made news for his interactions with teammates and for his handling of a blown game. 

While with the Yankees, Soriano was often criticized for keeping to himself and not engaging, though he is a shy person by nature. He was also called on the carpet after leaving before speaking with reporters following a game in which he had a significant hand in losing. 

Speaking on his radio show early in the morning Pacific time, Rizzo said he had not heard about the potential discord. 

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Rizzo said. “I haven’t talked to any of those guys. Rafi is an extremely competitive guy and he’s an extremely up front guy. So I would think if he had those things to say to Harp he would’ve pulled Harp or (first base coach Tony Tarasco, who positions the outfielders) aside and made his case to them instead of to the newspapers. 

“I’ll have to look into that. I haven’t gotten to the ballpark yet but if there’s something that is amiss and there’s some issues with it, they should get together and discuss it face to face. That’s how I like to attack any issues that I have.”

For the Nationals, the finger-pointing is another negative in a road trip that has been filled with them, but it also should be secondary for the Nationals than dealing with the issue Harper alluded to in his fear of hitting the wall.

“You hit the wall like he hit it and bang up your body, it hurts,” Rizzo said. “And the next time you’re going full go into another strange outfield alignment where the walls jut out and there’s different angles, it’s obviously in the back of your mind. He’s not that far removed from hitting the wall in Los Angeles. It probably was on his mind. With experience in the outfield, those thoughts will be out of his mind.”