- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2005

ANAHEIM, Calif. — As far as natural rivalries go, Anaheim-Washington doesn’t exactly rank up there among baseball’s greatest feuds.

That may change in a hurry.

The Nationals and Angels turned an otherwise nondescript, interleague matchup last night into a war of accusations, ejections, a near-bench-clearing brawl and one wild finish.

Washington ultimately emerged triumphant, plating four runs in the eighth en route to a 6-3 win that was every bit as impressive as any of its 26 previous come-from-behind victories.

And thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies’ loss in Seattle, the Nationals extended their lead in the National League East division to a season-high two games.

The actual story behind this one, though, went far beyond the linescore and standings.

It all began in the seventh inning, when Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly came out of the bullpen to face pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga. Once Donnelly completed his warm-ups, Nationals manager Frank Robinson approached plate umpire Tim Tschida and asked that Donnelly’s glove be examined.

After a brief conference among the entire crew, Donnelly was ejected for using a foreign substance and the glove was confiscated.

What escalated from there bordered on the surreal.

Upset over Donnelly’s ejection, Angels manager Mike Scioscia confronted Robinson, and the two engaged in a face-to-face argument. That prompted both benches and both bullpens to pour onto the field.

Though it did not appear any punches were thrown, emotions ran plenty hot. Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen — the former Angel outcast — had to be forcibly restrained and dragged back to the dugout by bench coach Eddie Rodriguez and batting practice pitcher Jose Martinez.

Order appeared to have been restored after that, but when Washington reliever Gary Majewski took the mound for the bottom of the inning, Scioscia requested that his glove be examined. The umpiring crew ruled Majewski’s glove was legal but did ask him to cut off a loose string.

By the time Guillen strode to the plate with one on in the top of the eighth, the sellout crowd of 43,874 showered him with boos. Within moments, they watched in stunned silence as Guillen trotted around the bases having just tied the game with a two-run homer off Scot Shields. Junior Spivey later came through with the game-winning hit, a single to right, and Brian Schneider added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly.

Majewski (2-0) wound up earning the win with 1[1/3] innings of scoreless relief. Chad Cordero picked up his major-league-leading 20th save.

The late fireworks overshadowed what had been a tense pitchers’ duel between Nationals ace Livan Hernandez and Angels rookie Ervin Santana.

It had been nearly three years since Hernandez last pitched in Anaheim, and the memory still haunts him. Given the ball by ex-Giants manager Dusty Baker for Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, Hernandez lasted only two innings. He wound up taking the loss, watched helplessly as the Angels celebrated their first-ever championship and five months later was traded to the Montreal Expos.

At the time, some thought he was finished. Hernandez, of course, is far from it. Since that late-October night, he’s 35-27 with a 3.40 ERA.

He also has re-established himself as baseball’s most-reliable workhorse, and it’s a good thing, because he needed every bit of his unmatched stamina last night.

Hernandez has made a living pitching his way out of jams all season, and this one was no exception. The big right-hander put at least one man on base in each of his first five innings, yet didn’t allow one to score until the fifth.

His best escape act came in the fourth, when the Angels loaded the bases with one out on three singles. Chone Figgins worked the count to 3-1, but Hernandez got him to foul out to third base. Darin Erstad then roped a hard grounder to the right side, but Spivey laid it all out to make a diving stop and throw to first in time to end the inning.

Hernandez finally succumbed in the fifth, surrendering a two-out single up the middle to Bengie Molina that gave the Angels a 1-0 lead.

Washington got that run right back in the sixth. After being stymied by Santana for five innings, the Nationals strung together three straight singles, capped by Nick Johnson’s RBI broken-bat blooper to right. After Vinny Castilla walked, designated hitter Wil Cordero — in the lineup for the first time since April 7 — came up with a chance to break open the game. In the eighth Wil Cordero would single and score on Schneider’s sacrifice fly, but in the sixth he struck out feebly at a 94-mph fastball from Santana, leaving him 0-for-15 for the season and leaving Washington with nothing more to show than one run.

The Angels stormed right back in the sixth, though, knocking Hernandez from the game. A run-scoring single by Erstad gave the Angels the lead, and a subsequent Vladimir Guerrero double off the top of the wall in left-center made it 3-1.

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