- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Major League Baseball put the Washington Nationals and New York Mets on notice before the teams started their second series of the season yesterday at RFK Stadium.

Six Nationals and one Met were hit by pitches during last week’s three-game series, prompting the suspension of Nationals manager Frank Robinson and relief pitcher Felix Rodriguez.

So the umpiring crew saw fit — undoubtedly on orders from Major League Baseball and discipline czar Bob Watson — to meet with Robinson and Mets manager Willie Randolph.

Warnings for the rest of the season were handed down by the crew of Brian O’Nora, Phil Cuzi, Jerry Crawford and Chuck Meriweather.

Five nights after Jose Guillen was hit twice in three innings by Pedro Martinez, the Mets spoiled the Nationals’ home opener with a 7-1 victory. Starting with tonight’s Guillen-Martinez rematch, the teams meet 14 more times.

“They have control of the game,” Robinson said of the umpires. “It’s up to them what they feel about a certain pitch. That’s just the way it works. Word is there’s bad blood between the two ballclubs and any time we play they’re going to put out a warning to the umpires. It’s tough. I just hope they use good judgment.”

After getting hit a second time by Martinez, Guillen started toward the mound, and both benches and bullpens emptied before semi-cool heads prevailed.

Martinez has hit Guillen five times in 40 plate appearances. Neither party was talking yesterday. But expect Guillen to be ready.

“I think Jose looks forward to playing every day,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “I think when you have a rivalry like this, it’s exciting and good for the league. It’s like the playoffs every time. Both teams want to win that bad.”

The Mets have won three of the four meetings this season. Martinez hit three batters in six innings last week but was not punished by the league office. Rodriguez earned a three-game suspension (which he is appealing) for hitting Paul Lo Duca in the eighth inning of the Mets’ 10-5 win. Robinson served his one-game suspension Monday in Houston.

The Nationals argued that their pitchers hit only one batter in three games last week so the warning was unwarranted.

“They hit six guys, we hit one guy and we’re the ones getting suspended,” pitcher John Patterson said. “It seems a little bit unfair. But at the same time, we understand they’re trying to keep the game under control and keep somebody from getting hurt.”

Patterson hit only five batters in 1981/3 innings last season and said his style can’t be changed because of the warnings.

“We’re not going to change anything about the way we pitch,” he said. “We’re still going to pitch inside. We’re not out there trying to hit people, but we’re going to be aggressive.”

Before the game, Robinson agreed that the Nationals’ style won’t be altered.

“I’m not afraid of that,” he said. “We’re going to go out and pitch the way we normally pitch. It’s all in the umpires’ court. We can’t worry about how they may react or what they may look at or feel about a certain pitch. If that’s the case, we’re going to be doing our job to get people out. We just have to stick to our game plan and hopefully, they’ll [the Nationals’ players] not overreact.”

Martinez has a reputation for throwing inside, but the number of hit Nationals batsmen was slightly out of character. He hit 16 batters in 2004 but only four in 217 innings last year.

Randolph cited Martinez’s lack of live innings in spring training as a reason for his control problems. Martinez also walked five batters.

“We know he has good control, and hopefully it will come back [tonight],” Randolph said. “We all know how he likes to pitch inside, and sometimes a ball gets away from him.”

Guillen was tied for the National League lead last year with 19 hit by pitches and has 37 since the start of the 2004 season.

Normally affable reliever Joey Eischen wouldn’t bite when asked about the umpires’ warnings.

“I have to face that [umpire] every night when I come to the mound,” he said. “They’re going to do what Mr. Watson wants them to do. That’s their job.

“I know we have a watch on this series. I don’t try to hit people. I didn’t try to throw the ball behind Andy Pettitte [last weekend]. But stuff happens. If they throw me out, we’ll see how I react.”

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