- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

NEW YORK — Considering how well they have played since Thursday’s surprising win in Atlanta, the Washington Nationals weren’t necessarily looking for a day off yesterday.

Not that they had a choice. The massive storm that swept through the East Coast yesterday postponed the Nationals’ scheduled series finale against the New York Mets and left the 3-9 ballclub with nothing to do but take an early train back to the District and rest up for a four-game homestand that begins today against the Braves.

The Nationals might have relished the possibility of a day off to get away from their troubles not long ago, but the club’s resurgent play probably changed their minds.

“If anybody tells you right now that they need a rest, then you’re not prepared to play a 162-game season,” manager Manny Acta said. “We need to keep on playing. The last [three] games have been well-played ballgames.”

Acta’s club wished it could have taken the field at Shea Stadium for the rubber game of the weekend series, particularly in the wake of Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Mets that was easily the team’s best-played game of the young season.

But the Nationals had a hunch all along this game wouldn’t be played. And sure enough, there was already enough water on the ground and a forecast for more rain to come for the scheduled 1:10 p.m. game to be called off by 8:30 a.m.

No makeup date was announced, but Washington will be making two more trips to New York this season: July 27-29 and Sept. 24-26. The two teams could play a doubleheader during either of those series. Both clubs also have scheduled off-days July 30 and Sept. 27, so either series could be extended.

Rather than bypass any member of his rotation, Acta will bump all his starters back to pitch on extra rest. Rookie Matt Chico, who was supposed to start yesterday, will pitch tonight against Braves left-hander Chuck James at RFK Stadium. Right-hander Jerome Williams faces John Smoltz tomorrow.

Yesterday’s rainout also postponed the planned Jackie Robinson Day celebration. Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young was going to wear Robinson’s uniform No. 42 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his major league debut. There was no word yet whether the celebration will take place on a future date.

Cordero holding on

Twice in three days, Nationals closer Chad Cordero has pitched himself into a terrifying, ninth-inning jam, only to somehow escape the situation without allowing a run and preserve his club’s lead.

Given a 2-0 lead Thursday in Atlanta, Cordero loaded the bases before striking out Scott Thorman. Then on Saturday, he took the mound with a 6-2 lead, put the first two Mets on base and then fell behind 3-0 to Jose Reyes when he couldn’t locate any of his pitches.

“I just lost it,” he said. “I had no idea where the ball was going. I just couldn’t find it, I don’t know what it was.”

Somehow, Cordero rediscovered the plate, struck out Reyes and then got Endy Chavez to line out to end the game.

It certainly wasn’t the first time the young closer has flirted with disaster, raising this question: Is it possible Cordero just needs to be in the tightest of situations to thrive?

“I hope not,” Acta said.

Cordero admitted it’s possible that theory could be true.

“I mean, maybe,” he said. “I like that pressure situation. Every time I go out there I wish I could do well. But for some reason when it’s a closer game, I seem to buckle down.”

Want more Nats? Check out Nats Home Plate.

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