- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006

The frustration of being one of baseball’s worst teams for much of this season may have become too much for the Washington Nationals to handle yesterday.

Before the game, chairs were flying in the clubhouse. After the game, expletives were being hurled toward reporters and television cameras.

In between it all, the Nationals wasted perhaps their best performance by a starting pitcher this season because of two critical seventh-inning errors, a crucial base-running gaffe in the eighth and another late-game collapse by their depleted bullpen.

Add it all up and the Nationals’ frustration may have reached a saturation point.

Nationals starter Tony Armas allowed just one unearned run in seven innings. But New York Mets pinch hitter Michael Tucker belted a game-winning home run off reliever Jon Rauch in the eighth inning as the Mets won 3-1 before 37,732 at RFK Stadium.

Tucker’s homer was his first since July 17, 2005, when he played for the San Francisco Giants. The Nationals gave him a spring training invitation this year only to release him at the end of camp.

“That’s in the past. I’ve played for a lot of teams,” Tucker said after the National League East-leading Mets (71-45) took two of three games from the reeling Nationals (51-66). “You can’t hold any grudges. It’s a business. I would have tried to do the same thing against another team.”

The fireworks began before the game when seldom-used utility infielder Damian Jackson burst through the clubhouse door and inexplicably hurled his chair across the room. After the game, when reporters asked Jackson why he threw his chair, he had a profanity-laced tirade.

Meanwhile, catcher Brian Schneider joined the postgame sideshow. Schneider’s seventh-inning throwing error to second base on a steal attempt by David Wright allowed Wright to take third. Wright then tied the game at 1-1 when Nationals second baseman Marlon Anderson bobbled Jose Valentin’s grounder and then threw wide of first base.

Schneider, who had right shoulder problems at the end of last season, was asked whether he felt OK considering he entered yesterday’s game having thrown out just 23 percent (13 of 56) of base-runners this season. He is 38 percent for his career.

“I’m not [expletive] hurt. I’m sick of people telling me I’m [expletive] hurt. I’m done with [expletive] people because I didn’t throw out a decent percentage this year,” Schneider said as he stormed out of the clubhouse.

As Schneider exited, he kicked a chair out of his way and shouted obscenities down the hall to the training room area.

Meanwhile, Nationals manager Frank Robinson criticized Schneider and Rauch (3-3) for allowing Tucker, who was called up by the Mets from the minors on Wednesday, to beat his club.

“It wasn’t location. It was selection of pitch, period,” Robinson said. “The catcher and the pitcher have to be in tune with situations.”

Nationals rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made a costly base-running mistake in the eighth inning. With one out and Zimmerman on first, Nick Johnson lofted a ball to center field that Carlos Beltran caught in the grass near the warning track. One problem, though: Zimmerman had nearly reached third when Beltran caught the ball. The Mets quickly got the ball back into the infield to double-up Zimmerman at first to end the inning.

“I just thought there were two outs,” Zimmerman said. “It was a hit-and-run, and I just thought there were two outs so I just kept going. By the time I realized it, there was nothing I could do.”

Armas deserved better. The big right-hander retired 10 straight batters to start the game. He surrendered just two hits and went into the seventh inning for the first time this season. Armas walked one and struck out five.

“My breaking pitches were pretty good, especially away,” Armas said. “They have a good lineup. You’ve got to be careful with them.”

Outfielder Alfonso Soriano gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead with his 38th home run of the season to lead off the fourth inning.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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