- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

PHILADELPHIA — The Washington Nationals salvaged a near-disaster by splitting a doubleheader with the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday.

Preston Wilson and Carlos Baerga delivered back-to-back run-scoring singles in the eighth inning as the Nationals rallied behind their bullpen for a 5-4 win before 34,492 last night in the second game of a day-night doubleheader at Citizens Bank Stadium.

Phillies starter Vicente Padilla shut down the Nationals in the earlier game as Philadelphia won 2-1.

The split left the Nationals (64-57) tied with the Houston Astros and a half-game behind the Phillies (65-57) in the National League wild-card race.

“It’s a great win. We’re still right there,” outfielder Jose Guillen said.

The win also gave the Nationals a 6-4 record so far on this 13-day, 13-game road trip, which continues tonight in New York against the Mets.

Nationals starter Ryan Drese lasted just four innings, giving up four runs on five hits, including Chase Utley’s two-run home run in the third inning.

“It was a fastball up that was supposed to go down,” Drese said.

Trailing 4-0 after the fourth inning, the Nationals looked in danger of falling 2 games back in the wild-card race. But John Halama, Luis Ayala, Mike Stanton and Chad Cordero allowed just three hits in five scoreless innings of relief. Ayala (8-6) got the win by pitching the sixth and seventh.

“They shut them down,” Robinson said.

Jose Vidro, who was 3-for-4 with two RBI, led the Nationals’ rally. He slashed the deficit in half with a two-run double in the fifth, driving in the 500th run of his career, then scored Washington’s third run on Nick Johnson’s double later in the inning.

“This is a ballpark where a 4-0 lead is not a big lead,” Vidro said.

The Nationals tied the game in the eighth when Jose Guillen led off with a double against Ugueth Urbina (3-1) and scored on a single by Wilson, who entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch hitter for Ryan Church. Baerga then knocked in the game-winning run with a single to center.

“When you get more at-bats in your role, it’s easier to react to your pitches,” said Baerga, who finished the game 2-for-3.

In the first game, the Nationals squandered the few scoring opportunities they had. With nobody out and the bases loaded in the second inning, the Nationals scored just one run — on Cristian Guzman’s single that brought home Wilson — instead of breaking the game open against Padilla (6-11). Guzman began the game hitting .111 with runners in scoring position.

The Nationals finished with just seven hits overall and had only four baserunners after that inning.

“We just can’t get anybody to stick their nose in there and get a tough base hit on a consistent basis or get that good fly ball that will at least get a run home,” Robinson said. “It’s not a hopeless situation offensively. We need one or two base hits at the right time. It’s the entire lineup. They’ve had shots and haven’t been able to do it.”

The Nationals’ only other good scoring opportunity came with two outs in the sixth inning and Guillen at third. However, Padilla struck out Gary Bennett to end the inning.

The game remained close because the Phillies weren’t much better at the plate, but unlike the Nationals, they got the big hit when they needed it. Bobby Abreu drove in both of the Phillies’ runs with a double to center field that scored Jimmy Rollins and Kenny Lofton in the third inning.

Those were the only runs allowed by Nationals starter Tony Armas Jr. in his five innings of work. However, Armas (7-6) walked six batters.

“Sometimes I just try to go away from the hitters, and the ball just goes up a little bit,” Armas said. “I’m not happy with the walks. I would have liked to go deeper in the game.”

Armas said he had trouble controlling his fastball, but he was able to pitch around trouble, especially in a 28-pitch first inning, when he struck out Ryan Howard with the bases loaded.

“Overall, he was good,” Robinson said. “He made the pitches and got hitters out when he had to really get them out with all those people he put out there for free. So it was unbelievable that he only gave up two runs.”

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