- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rangers 13, Nationals 3. Not exactly a compelling Saturday night at the yard.

Look deeper into the box score and the story line of this lopsided affair, though, and there clearly was more to see.

Like Garrett Mock’s second career start, which began in ugly fashion but wound up an encouraging development for the rookie right-hander: six innings of four-run ball, only one of them coming after the first.

Or Washington’s inability to seize control of this game back when that was still plausible in the fifth and sixth innings.

None of that seemed to matter at the end of the night, not after the Nationals’ bullpen imploded during a seven-run seventh and allowed Texas to run away with an easy victory.

It was difficult to look past the fact that Nationals reliever Charlie Manning retired one of the four batters he faced while the game was still close or that Brian Sanches retired one of the six batters he faced.

Sanches wound up getting demoted to Class AAA Columbus after posting a 7.36 ERA in 12 games. He’ll be replaced by right-hander Steven Shell, who was 3-2 with a 2.62 ERA for the Clippers.

Utilityman Pete Orr also will be called up to provide another bat off the bench.

Really, though, the larger development from the Nationals’ perspective was Mock’s outing, which offered a glimpse of what the young right-hander might have to offer.

“I like what I see,” manager Manny Acta said. “I like his confidence. I like his stuff. I think he’s going to be part of our future.”

Mock came to the District two weeks ago for his major league debut, knowing in advance his stay would be brief and he would be headed back to Columbus as soon as the game ended.

The same held true Saturday night. No matter the results, Mock was going to be optioned back to the minors, a plan Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said has some merit.

“Give that little cup of coffee. Let him have a taste,” Bowden said. “And then later on when he comes up here, he’s been there already, and he’s done it a couple of times.”

For a few tenuous moments, it looked like Mock might be out of the game early enough to catch the 9:15 p.m. US Airways flight from Reagan National to Columbus.

Rangers leadoff man Ian Kinsler hit his second pitch deep to left, off Wily Mo Pena’s glove and over the fence for a home run. Two singles and a two-run double by David Murphy later, Texas led 3-0.

“You can’t start off the game giving up a 3-spot,” the pitcher said. “It’s not fun to play back from that.”

But the 25-year-old pitcher brushed aside that inauspicious start and began retiring batters.

In that regard, Mock acquitted himself well. He allowed just one other run after the first inning and wound up retiring the last eight batters he faced before leaving after the sixth with eight strikeouts and one walk.

“I think it would have been more important to start on a good note,” he said. “If I could have started out and gotten into a rhythm from the get-go, I think that would have been a very important thing that would have helped us win the game.”

The Nationals trailed only 4-3 when Mock was pulled. And they put themselves in prime position to at least tie the game (or possibly go ahead) when Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard each reached base to open the sixth.

But the ensuing rally - or rather, the attempted rally - encapsulated this game for the Nationals, and in many ways the season. Felipe Lopez, needing only to move the runners up, struck out on three pitches (the last a breaking ball in the dirt). And though Paul Lo Duca singled to load the bases, Wily Mo Pena flied out to shallow center and pinch-hitter Kory Casto lined out to short.

Inning over. Nationals still trailing by a run. Mock still in line for the loss.

“To me, baseball is like boxing,” Acta said. “If I don’t hit you, you’re going to hit me. And that was basically the case for us today.”