- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

HOUSTON | Before the Washington Nationals took the field Thursday at Minute Maid Park, the usual handwritten lineup was posted on the clubhouse bulletin board. Instead of its normal crisp symmetry, the card had a mishmash of notations and substitutions. In the ninth spot in the batting order, there was simply a question mark.

The convoluted lineup card was just one strange scene among many. The Nationals and Astros finished their game from May 5 at Nationals Park, which was suspended after heavy rain fell with the score tied at 10-10 in the 11th inning.

The two teams resumed Thursday exactly where they left off with one out in the bottom of the 11th, Josh Willingham at the plate and Elijah Dukes on first. Well, maybe not exactly where they left off.

Since that game, the Nationals’ roster has undergone a handful of changes - its bullpen bearing so many of them that Washington went from having one reliever left in its bullpen to having all but one available to pitch. Julian Tavarez was the only reliever still on the roster who pitched May 5.

Stuck waiting for more than two months, the Nationals won the game seven minutes after it resumed, with a former MVP making a throwing error trying to turn a double play on a lead-footed catcher who wasn’t in the majors when the game began. A pinch runner who was on another team that day scored the winning run, earning a win for one of the players traded for him.

The Nationals, the puzzlingly dressed home team in their road grays, won the paradoxical affair 11-10 in walk-off fashion. They pushed across their 11th run when Josh Bard, slowed even further by a strained groin, lumbered down the first-base line and Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada fired too high toward first. That pulled Lance Berkman off the bag, and Nyjer Morgan raced around for the winning run.

Among the oddities caused by Thursday’s restart, only the eighth suspended game to finish in a city other than where it started:

c Morgan and Sean Burnett, both of whom played for Pittsburgh against Milwaukee on May 5, were eligible to appear in box scores for two teams. Morgan did; he pinch ran for Dukes, who was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse last month.

c Failed closer Joel Hanrahan, who was traded to Pittsburgh with Lastings Milledge for Morgan and Burnett, got his first (and only) win of the season for the Nationals nine days after he had been traded. MLB Network said it was the first time a player had earned a win while playing for another team.

c Scott Olsen and Roy Oswalt, the pitchers who started the game that ended Thursday, are the probable starters for Friday’s game.

“I don’t think [I’ve ever had anything like it],” manager Manny Acta said. “But it’s good that they have those rules because imagine if both my catchers wouldn’t have been able to be in the game and I didn’t have anybody else.”

The question mark on the lineup card came because catcher Jesus Flores was in the game when it was suspended and is now on the disabled list. Wil Nieves had played in the game, and Bard, the other catcher on the roster, was at Syracuse then.

Post-break starters set

When they play the Chicago Cubs in the first game after the All-Star break next Thursday, the Nationals won’t make any major changes to the top of their rotation. Acta said Thursday that John Lannan and Scott Olsen will start the first two games after the break.

What that does do, however, is ensure Ross Detwiler - if he’s still in the rotation - won’t pitch again until July 18 at the earliest. Detwiler would have been the next starter in line to pitch if the Nationals had set their rotation that way rather than resetting at the top.

Detwiler has an 11.67 ERA in his past three starters and gave up six runs in four innings Wednesday against Colorado. Acta did not say after the loss whether he felt Detwiler should remain in the rotation.

“That’s not my decision here,” he said.

Guzman falls short

Shortstop Cristian Guzman, one of five players nominated for the last spot on the NL team in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, finished fifth in the balloting, MLB announced. Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino won the spot with a record 15.6 million votes, and Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge joined the American League team with 11.8 million votes.

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