Nats waste surprising rally after rain delay

The exhausting delay lasted more than two hours.

The inspiring tying rally took less than 10 minutes to materialize.

But it took another 72 minutes for the inevitable, deflating conclusion: yet another difficult loss for the Washington Nationals.

The box score will show that the Cincinnati Reds beat the Nationals 4-2 in 12 innings on Wednesday. Those barebones facts, though, only begin to describe the bizarre fashion in which a game that included a 2-hour, 10-minute rain delay, a 4-3-6-4-6 double play, Ron Villone’s first earned runs of the year and a “crowd” of perhaps 75 fans lining the front row behind both dugouts at the end was ultimately decided.

The final result, of course, was rather ordinary: Washington lost a ballgame, the 42nd time this club has done so in 57 games this season and the eighth time it has lost in eight extra-inning affairs.

“They’re all the same,” left fielder Adam Dunn said. “But we fought back and tied it. We just weren’t able to scratch out another one.”

This loss was different, though, if for no reason other than the dramatic fashion in which the Nationals tied the game in the ninth following the delay.

The frame began with the Reds leading 2-0. Cincinnati closer Francisco Cordero walked leadoff man Elijah Dukes, then had a 2-2 count on Josh Willingham before a massive thunderstorm struck Nationals Park.

Crew chief Tim McClelland called for the tarp, and players from both teams as well as fans scurried for cover. By the time the rain finally subsided and the field was prepared for play again, the clock read 11:40 p.m. and perhaps 75 of the 19,790 who originally entered the park were still on hand.

Despite the long delay, Reds manager Dusty Baker showed no hesitation in letting Cordero retake the mound. That move backfired big-time.

Willingham managed to draw a walk of his own, putting runners on first and second. Ronnie Belliard struck out, but Josh Bard followed by roping a single to right field that scored Dukes and put Willingham on third representing the tying run. A single up the middle by Alberto Gonzalez — making him 5-for-5 with four RBI as a pinch hitter this season — tied the game and ultimately sent it into extra innings and into Thursday morning.

“Our guys never gave up,” manager Manny Acta said. “That says a lot. They were able to come back and score two runs.”

Each bullpen posted zeroes in the 10th and 11th before the Reds finally struck in the 12th.

Villone, who had been unscored upon in 19 outings this year, walked Jay Bruce to get the inning started on a sour note. The veteran lefty then botched Alex Gonzalez’s sacrifice bunt attempt. After Bruce advanced to third on a passed ball in which no one was covering the base, Acta emerged from his dugout and signaled for right-hander Jason Bergmann to try to escape this mess.

Bergmann nearly pulled it off. He got Ryan Hanigan to hit a sharp grounder to Belliard, setting off a 4-3-6-4-6 double play that also prevented the winning run from scoring. But moments later, pinch hitter Jonny Gomes lofted a double to left, and when Jerry Hairston followed with an RBI single, the Reds had a comfortable two-run lead again.

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