- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

PHILADELPHIAJason Bergmann would have loved to close out his impressive 2007 season with a big-time performance against the Philadelphia Phillies, who were seeking their first playoff berth in 14 years.

Bergmann, though, suffered through one of his worst outings of the season yesterday, lasting only three innings and putting the Washington Nationals into an early hole against the eventual NL East champions.

The right-hander allowed three runs on three hits, walking one and hitting another batter.

“I knew it was an important game, not just for the Phillies but for the Mets, too,” said Bergmann, who finished 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA. “I didn’t perform well. I didn’t have my stuff. I didn’t have very good fastball location. It was a tough day to pitch today. I did not have a lot of fun out there.”

The outing was Bergmann’s second-shortest of the season, better only than his July 24 start at Citizens Bank Park in which he strained a hamstring and had to depart with one out in the third.

But the young pitcher wouldn’t let this one poor performance overshadow an overall positive season, one in which he emerged from the pack in spring training to earn a job, overcome two injuries and win five straight decisions before losing yesterday.

“In spring training, I was written off,” Bergmann said. “For me, that was tough to take. But I tried as hard as I could and listened to everybody and tried to feed off as much as I could from other people. I think from my own performance, I think I did all right.

“But there’s stuff to improve upon. Big players perform in big games, and today I didn’t perform very well. So I think I need to step it up a notch.”

Prime time for Maxwell

Unafraid to let Justin Maxwell play on a huge stage, manager Manny Acta started the rookie outfielder in the finale. It was the fifth time Maxwell was in the Nationals starting lineup in seven games.

“He’s handled himself very well and he’s worked very hard, paid attention to details,” Acta said. “Looking at him, you wouldn’t even tell that he doesn’t belong here. That’s how good he’s been.”

Maxwell, 23, had never played above Class A before this month. But in 15 games with the Nationals, he hit .269 with two homers and five RBI.

Extra bases

The Nationals plan to announce decisions on their coaching staff today. Acta suggested Saturday that all six of his coaches were likely to return, but after meeting with general manager Jim Bowden over the weekend, it’s possible one staff member could be let go.

Most vulnerable are hitting coach Lenny Harris, who took over in midseason for Mitchell Page after the latter left the team for personal reasons, and third-base coach Tim Tolman. …

Jon Rauch did not pitch in the final game, but that didn’t prevent the durable reliever from finishing the season with the most appearances in the majors (88). Teammate Saul Rivera, who pitched 11/3 innings yesterday, was second with 85.

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