- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A dark cloud already hung over the Washington Nationals before they slogged their way through a rain-soaked evening at the ballpark. News of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s placement on the disabled list, perhaps for a prolonged period of time, greeted players as they arrived at Nationals Park.

By the end of a miserable night of baseball — a 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals sandwiched around two rain delays totaling two hours and 40 minutes — there wasn’t much reason for this club to feel good about itself.

Nothing went Washington’s way yesterday. The announcement of Zimmerman’s first career DL stint with a tear in his left shoulder was only the beginning. The remaining, ragtag squad that took the field last night — with five Opening Night lineup members now injured — looked every bit like a fill-in team.

Players committed errors, both physical and mental. Starting pitcher Odalis Perez allowed four runs in the first and was yanked after three innings with a shoulder injury that will cause him to miss his next start. And the majors’ least-productive offense lived down to its reputation, finally snapping its scoreless-innings streak at 22 but managing only one run and six hits off the Cardinals’ pitching staff.

“Right now, this team is not having a good time,” Perez said.

Not with an already crowded list of injured players growing by the day, leaving the remaining healthy players in a deep hole.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s tough,” second baseman Felipe Lopez said. “But guys that are out there, we’ve got to step it up. We’ve just got to get it done. Yeah, we’ve got a lot of people hurt. But still we’ve got to go out there and give 100 percent.”

The rain already had begun to fall when the Nationals took the field shortly after 7 p.m., and radar maps clearly showed heavier systems heading toward the District. Nevertheless, the Nationals — who as the home team had the authority to delay the game until the first pitch was thrown, after which the umpires took control — decided to get this one started.

Had they known what would transpire from that moment on, they might have taken a different tact. Playing a sloppy form of baseball befitting the sloppy conditions, Washington dug itself into a 4-0 hole before sending a batter to the plate.

Perez (2-5) got the evening off on an appropriate note, plunking leadoff man Brian Barton on an 0-2 count. Two batters later, the veteran lefty fielded a comebacker from Albert Pujols and inexplicably turned to throw to second even though Barton was going to reach with no trouble. Lopez took the throw in front of the bag, then dropped the ball and threw late to first, leaving everyone safe and getting charged with an error in the process.

The next batter, Ryan Ludwick, lined a base hit to left, which skipped off the grass and right past Ryan Langerhans’ glove. Barton scored on what was originally ruled a single and an error on Langerhans but was later changed to a double.

Regardless, the atrocious play drew some rousing boos from the crowd of 26,875, which only grew in volume when Yadier Molina later crushed a pitch from Perez into the left-field bullpen for a three-run homer that made it 4-0.

“We had one ugly inning there, and it turned out to be a long night,” manager Manny Acta said.

Then came the news that Perez’s left shoulder felt tight. He admitted later he had been dealing with the ailment for a couple of weeks, but this was enough to force him from last night’s game.

“It’s been bothering me since, let’s say, three starts back,” Perez said. “I’ve been battling. But today I couldn’t hold it no more.”

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