- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — To Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson, it wasn’t the season-high five errors that prevented his club from erasing a nine-run deficit yesterday. The difference was a couple of calls.

Following a 12-10 loss to Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park, Robinson said two rulings turned the game in the favor of the Phillies, who had four hits from Aaron Rowand in the finale and took two of three in the series. The Nationals had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the ninth after trailing 10-1 through four innings.

“It’s very frustrating,” Robinson said. “We battled and battled and battled and battled and battled, and you don’t get the calls that you’re supposed to get, and it costs you two runs in the end, and that’s what you lose by — it’s tough to take.”

Both controversial calls involved Nationals utility infielder Damian Jackson, who entered the game in the fifth inning for Ryan Zimmerman at third base.

In the seventh inning, third-base umpire Paul Nauert ruled that Jackson didn’t tag Abraham Nunez in time on a sacrifice bunt by reliever Ryan Madson. Madson’s bunt rolled in front of the plate, and catcher Brian Schneider fired to third. Replays showed that Nunez slid into Jackson’s glove, but Nauert saw it differently. Madson later scored on Danny Sandoval’s sacrifice fly to center that gave the Phillies (61-62) an 11-8 lead.

“I didn’t even need a replay,” Schneider said. “I could see it right off the get-go, great tag by Damian, and he slid right into Damian. Obviously, it was costly. It was a ball right in front of home plate. You’ve got to take a shot at third base.”

A two-run single by Schneider in the eighth cut the Phillies lead to 11-10, but Jackson’s third error of the game gave the Phillies another run in the bottom half of the inning. With runners on first and second, Nunez bunted back to pitcher Chad Cordero. Cordero fired to third in an attempt to get the force out, but Nauert ruled that Jackson’s foot never touched the bag. The Phillies extended their lead on Jimmy Rollins’ sacrifice to left field.

“I thought he was out,” Jackson said. “I’ve been getting a lot tough breaks. I don’t know if I deserve them or not.”

Well before the plays at third base helped the Phillies get their 11th and 12th runs, Nationals starter Pedro Astacio (3-3) allowed seven runs (six earned) on six hits and four walks in two-plus innings. He struggled to throw strikes with his curveball, which was effective Tuesday in a two-hit shutout of the Atlanta Braves. Mike Lieberthal homered off one of Astacio’s curveballs in the second yesterday to put the Phillies up 2-0. The lead grew to 3-0 by the end of the second and 7-1 by the end of the third.

“I was pitching behind the hitters,” Astacio said. “Walks in this game will kill you all the time. I didn’t do my job.”

The Nationals (54-70) charged within two runs by scoring six times in the sixth. Catcher Brandon Harper, who received a rare start for Schneider, hit the first two major league home runs of his career — a solo shot in the third and a three-run blast in the sixth.

Washington brought in its closer, Cordero, in the eighth, and he allowed the one unearned run that made the score 12-10. Still, the Nationals had an opportunity in the ninth. Pinch hitter Jose Vidro doubled off Phillies reliever Arthur Rhodes with two outs. Vidro just missed a home run by about a foot when the ball hit the railing on top of the center-field fence. With Nick Johnson representing the potential tying run, the hard-throwing Rhodes struck him out to end the game.

“We started chipping away, then we scored the six runs and we had a chance,” Cordero said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come all the way back, but we showed that we’re going to keep battling back no matter how much we’re down. It just goes to show how hard we play the game.”

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