The Washington Times - May 7, 2009, 02:44AM

It’s become a broken record. Nats play tough against a good opponent. Nats bullpen turns close game into loss.

The setting was different tonight, but the outcome was not. Trailing the Dodgers 2-1 after five, Washington gave up seven runs during an ugly sixth inning and wound up losing 10-3.


The blow-by-blow of that sixth inning (for those who can stomach these things)…

Daniel Cabrera gave up a single to Russell Martin, then got Matt Kemp to fly out. No problems so far. But then he walked No. 8 hitter Casey Blake and walked pinch-hitter Mark Loretta, loading the bases and forcing Manny Acta to bring in Mike Hinckley.

Hinckley allowed an RBI single to Rafael Furcal. Then with a 3-2 count on Orlando Hudson, he reached back to throw a fastball. Only problem: The ball came loose in his hand as he went back. Too late to stop, lest he balk in a run. So Hinckley went ahead and threw a pitch … that hit the backstop on the fly.

“As I went to go back, I felt the ball come out of my hand,” the left-hander said. “I mean, I had no grip on it. It’s just one of those feelings like when you’re going down really fast in an elevator and you feel your stomach go out from underneath you. It’s like that feeling. I had no idea where this ball’s going to go. To be quite honest, I just lost it.”

So, enter Logan Kensing to face Manny Ramirez with the bases loaded. Who do you like in that matchup? Exactly. Ramirez hit a two-run double to right. Kensing then intentionally walked Andre Ethier, again loading the bases and setting the stage for James Loney to rap a two-run single to extend the inning. A fielder’s choice plated another run, and … well, you can figure out what happened from there.

The Nats have a bullpen problem. No, really, they’ve got a major bullpen problem. They’ve already overhauled this group a couple of times. Another overhaul may be in store.

“We continue to work on it,” Acta said. “We’re talking about it, and we’re taking a look at the guys at Triple-A and [acting general manager Mike Rizzo] is exploring possibilities. We’re going to continue to work until it’s better. Because we deserve better, and right now it’s not giving us a chance.”