- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | The list of worst ballgames played by the Washington Nationals in 2009 is lengthy and painful to recall. It includes blown ninth-inning leads, grand slams surrendered, ghastly errors at the most inopportune moments and boneheaded baserunning maneuvers. Sometimes, two or more of those events have converged on the same night, leading to some really spectacular losses.

What transpired Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park may trump them all and claim the title as the Nationals’ Worst Game of the Season.

The final tally — Phillies 5, Nationals 0 — doesn’t begin to tell the true story of this one, because Washington cleaned up its play as the evening progressed. Make no mistake, though, a couple of clean innings during garbage time couldn’t eradicate the stink that defined the first 90 minutes of this contest.

Pick your transgression. The Nationals committed it during the first 4 1/2 innings.

*Starter Garrett Mock retired only three of the first 10 batters he faced. The three outs were recorded via sacrifice bunt, double-play grounder hit right into an infield shift and a diving catch by Justin Maxwell on a sinking liner hit by the opposing pitcher.

*Washington’s first three batters all struck out, with Phillies starter Cliff Lee needing only 13 pitches to do it.

*Josh Bard and Alberto Gonzalez each committed Little League-caliber baserunning blunders in a span of minutes during the third inning, each while trying to advance off second base. Bard got caught in a rundown after a grounder to the second baseman. Gonzalez ran right into Maxwell’s hard grounder, retiring himself in the process.

*Adam Dunn booted a routine grounder in the fourth, then Mock interfered with Jimmy Rollins as the latter rounded first on the error.

*Mock, after beating out an infield single in the fifth, inexplicably tried to take second when Chase Utley’s throw got away. He was subsequently gunned down by 10 feet.

All this before the game was even halfway complete. Interim manager Jim Riggleman stood stoically in the visitors dugout throughout it all, contemplating what to say to his charges at the end of a long night. He certainly had plenty of material at his disposal.

Mock (3-8) set the tone for all of the evening’s events, surrendering a leadoff double to Rollins in the first and then needing two innings to recover. By the time he returned to the dugout after the bottom of the second, he had allowed five runs on six hits, three of them doubles, while also requiring a couple of nifty plays from his defense to record the necessary outs.

To Mock’s credit, he rebounded nicely and salvaged a six-inning start out of the mess he created, permitting only one more hit before departing. Still, the 26-year-old right-hander continues to baffle club executives who rave about his stuff but fret about his lack of positive results.

In 12 starts this season, Mock is 3-6 with a 5.67 ERA.

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