- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

MIAMI — It’s these kinds of games, the ones in which the opportunities seem to be arriving in bulk shipments, that propel baseball teams to the top of the standings. The Washington Nationals saw one of those games last night and blinked.

What could have been a memorable night for the Nationals, with their best pitcher throwing for the first time since last September and an opponent that seemed perfectly willing to give a game away, instead turned into a reminder of how thin their margin for error is.

Facing the Florida Marlins, who committed four errors and issued six walks, including five in three innings by starter Burke Badenhop, the Nationals tossed plenty of bouquets back. They gave up runs through fielding miscues and killed opportunities with baserunning blunders. They stranded 11 runners and couldn’t keep Florida from adding a run after Shawn Hill left in the sixth inning.

It all ended with Saul Rivera giving up a walk-off single to Wes Helms that scored Dan Uggla, who led off the ninth with a walk. All that came after a Nationals’ rally that included an error, a passed ball, a walk, a wild pitch and a two-run, game-tying single by Austin Kearns. The Marlins won 6-5 and sent Washington from a confidence-building win to a bewildering loss in 24 hours.

“We battled hard, but we continue to beat ourselves,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “I know the guys don’t want to do it, but it’s costing us right now.”

Hill’s first two pitches were clocked at 89 and 90 mph. He needed just 11 pitches in the first inning, getting Jeremy Hermida on a called third strike to end it. But he labored through the fifth and was tagged for three straight hits to start the sixth before giving way to Jesus Colome.

“It’s a 3-1 lead, and I’m not going through the heart of the order at that point,” said Hill, who allowed four runs on eight hits in five-plus innings. “I’ve got to do a better job of maintaining that lead. Overall, not a very good job.”

Still, he could have escaped with the lead if not for all those mistakes — perhaps none more costly than one in the fourth inning.

Up 3-1, the Nationals (5-13) wasted an opportunity when Nick Johnson hit a foul pop to third with one out. Washington had runners on first and second, but Cristian Guzman ran from second to third like there were two outs. Mike Jacobs threw easily to Uggla at second to double up Guzman.

“He told me that since he was at the plate, he had on his mind there were two outs,” Acta said. “He went on the bases, and the same thing happened. Those are the type of things we can’t afford to be doing. But we also made some other mistakes. We couldn’t catch a ball, and the leadoff walk in the ninth. You do those kinds of things, and the offense we have right now, you’re going to lose some one-run ballgames.”

The Nationals left Felipe Lopez at third with one out in the sixth, with Ryan Zimmerman grounding a first-pitch fastball to short and Nick Johnson popping to third.

In the bottom of the inning, after Hill had left with runners on second and third and Washington leading by a run, Florida tied the game on Cody Ross’ sacrifice fly off Colome.

The Marlins’ next run was more bizarre. Mike Rabelo hit a ball in the hole between first and second, Lopez muffed it, and as the spin on the ball slowly carried it toward first, Johnson stood with his foot on first as if he were waiting for it to reach him. But the ball didn’t get there before Rabelo beat it to the bag, and Jorge Cantu scored.

The Nationals still have a shot to win the series today when Odalis Perez faces Scott Olsen. That, however, would require a game much cleaner than the one the Nationals played last night.

“It’s one of those games where if you win, it’s a nice win,” Zimmerman said, “and if you lose, it’s a really bad loss.”

SEEN AND HEARD AT DOLPHIN STADIUM

MIAMI - The celebrity turnout for Game 2 of the series was nowhere near the first game on Friday night, when Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, who are working on the movie adaptation of the novel “Marley and Me,” watched from a suite. But that pales in comparison to the big news from the weekend: Dmitri Young’s Afro is gone.

The Nationals told him to trim the hairdo back slightly, but Young decided to go all the way and ditch the look for a close crop.

“It was just getting a little bit out of hand. It wasn’t something like we mandated to him,” manager Manny Acta said. “We spoke to him. He usually has his personal barber down here in Florida. We didn’t ask him to do it the way he did it, just to trim it a little bit. But he did a very nice job.”

Ben Goessling

BY THE NUMBERS

11 Pitches thrown by Shawn Hill to get through the first inning of his first start of the season.

TODAY’S GAME

Nationals LHP Odalis Perez Record, ERA: 0-3, 4.35

Marlins LHP Scott Olsen Record, ERA: 2-0, 3.05

Time: 1:10 p.m. TV: MASN2


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide