- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

NEW YORK — All signs pointed against the Washington Nationals, said they had no business winning last night’s game against the New York Mets.

Their anemic offense was going up against a seasoned veteran — Tom Glavine — who had dominated them in two previous outings this year. Their pitching staff once again was reduced to relievers only, a scenario that had produced some ugly results.

And their manager spent the final four innings watching the game on a television in his office, his ejection having produced a heated tirade on the field.

So don’t bother trying to analyze the Nationals’ 4-2 victory at Shea Stadium. Just savor it and appreciate the fact that this spastic ballclub has avoided elimination once again.

Washington (74-71) remains four games back in the National League wild-card race this morning, thanks to an unconventional win in the opener of a six-game road trip.

“That’s what we’re going to have to do, because we’re not going to be able to add anybody else,” manager Frank Robinson said of his bullpen-only pitching staff. “And we don’t have anybody here who can eat innings. So we’re going to have to be able to do it this way at least once in awhile when that situation comes up.”

Just how unconventional was it? Consider that Hector Carrasco, making the second start of his 10-year career on a night Glavine made his 600th, departed with a lead his teammates never blew yet received no decision. The victory went to Gary Majewski, the fourth of five Nationals pitchers needed to get through this one, and the most effective (two scoreless innings).

“It’s one of those situations where I think they need to throw the rule out,” said Majewski (4-3) of the policy that requires a starter to pitch five innings to be credited with a win. “Hector did a lot more tonight than he’s used to. He deserved to get the win.”

No matter who got the credit, the Nationals will take ‘em any way they can these days, even with Robinson in his office instead of the dugout.

He wound up there in the bottom of the sixth, when Mets right fielder Victor Diaz tried to check his swing on a fastball from reliever Jon Rauch. That Diaz went around appeared obvious to most everyone in the ballpark, but first base umpire Bill Miller ruled it a ball on appeal, and that sent Robinson into a tizzy.

From the dugout, he hollered out to plate umpire Jeff Nelson, whom Robinson said he has a history with.

“How could you miss that? You should have been able to make that call yourself,” Robinson said he told Nelson.

He was ejected for the third time this season and immediately rushed onto the field to argue. During an approximately five-minute tirade, the 70-year-old manager got into it with Nelson, then was even more animated with crew chief Joe Brinkman, whom Robinson said cursed him out.

“He said to me, ‘That’s right, get your [expletive] [expletive] off the field. Get the [expletive] out of here,” Robinson said. “He said it about five, six, seven times.”

Brinkman said he wasn’t sure if he cursed or not, but he insisted his actions were justified.

“[Robinson] was ejected,” he told a pool reporter. “It was a prolonged argument, and finally I just told him to get off the field.”

With Robinson out of the picture, much to the delight of the crowd of 34,143, it was up to bench coach Eddie Rodriguez to orchestrate the Nationals bullpen, and the fill-in manager did it well. Rauch gave way to Joey Eischen, who gave way to Majewski, who handed the ball to Chad Cordero, who recorded his 45th save and erased the demons of Sunday’s ninth-inning collapse against the Braves.

“You always want to go back out there,” Cordero said. “This way you can really forget about what happened the previous game.”

It all started with Carrasco, the 35-year-old right-hander who had made just one other start in a major-league career that includes 557 appearances. He didn’t learn of his assignment until 2:30 p.m., and even then thought it was a joke.

“I started laughing,” he said. “I was kind of surprised and really happy.”

Pitching exclusively out of the stretch — when’s the last time you saw a starter do that? — Carrasco pumped out four innings while throwing an impressive 74 pitches.

It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective. He struck out a career-high six batters and departed with the Nationals clinging to a 3-2 lead.

They achieved that by pushing across all three runs on five hits in the third inning against Glavine (10-13), a surprisingly effective barrage of singles and doubles that might have produced even more runs had Marlon Anderson not gunned down Marlon Byrd trying to tag up from third on Deivi Cruz’s fly ball to left.

The rally was jump-started by a most unlikely source, Cristian Guzman, who led off the inning by doubling to deep right field, the first of two two-baggers for the beleaguered shortstop. Carrasco laid down a bunt, and though Mike Jacobs fired to third trying to get Guzman, his throw was wide and everybody was safe. That opened the door for a succession of RBI singles, from Brad Wilkerson, Byrd and Preston Wilson, giving Washington its slim lead.

The Nationals added an insurance run in the ninth when Mets catcher Ramon Castro underhanded a throw way past first base for a two-base error.

And when Cordero retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, they headed home with an unconventional-but-satisfying win in the books and another game to start thinking about.

“If they need me tomorrow,” Carrasco said. “I’ll be there.”

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