- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Seven days before the Nationals and Angels began their three-game series at Angels Stadium, the band U2 held a concert here. The Irish quartet rocked to a packed house for two straight nights, but their stage also tore up the field so badly it required a complete re-sodding and may take up to a month to fully grow in.

With each bounce of the ball Tuesday night — some that started high and surprisingly dropped low in the infield or some that hit to the right and ricocheted to the left in the outfield — the new condition of the field was on display.

It helped to make for some ugly numbers for the two teams: seven combined errors, 16 runs, 26 hits, 22 runners left on base and one loss for the Nationals, 11-5.

“It’s kind of torn up right now,” said Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa, who committed his sixth error of the season. “But it’s for both sides. Both sides were getting some pretty bad hops. … Don’t want to make excuses, but it wasn’t exactly the easiest to field on.”

Five of those errors were committed by the Nationals with every infielder, but Michael Morse getting in on the action including shortstop Ian Desmond charged with two and Collin Balester picking up his first on a botched pickoff at second base. It was the most errors the Nationals had committed in a game in nearly four years, yet only one of the 11 runs they allowed was unearned and, until a five-run eighth inning by the Angels, they were playing in a one-run game.

“You can tell there was a concert here and they redid the infield, but it didn’t affect us yesterday,” Desmond said, noting the Nationals errorless play Monday night. “I’m not going to make any excuses. I’m not going to blame the infield. … It’s unfortunate, but it happens. They were booting balls around, too. That’s two pretty good defenses out there and seven errors.”

The loss, which gave the Nationals their first back-to-back setbacks in 18 days, was the largest margin of victory for any Nationals opponent since May 23 when they fell by eight runs to the Brewers, but there were plenty of ways this one could have been avoided.

Jason Marquis, who Nationals manager Davey Johnson said “obviously wasn’t sharp,” could have had better control than he did, walking four batters and throwing just 57 percent of his pitches for strikes. Desmond could have gotten his glove down an inch lower on a ground ball up the middle by Mark Trumbo with the bases loaded in the fifth. Ryan Zimmerman’s throw to Michael Morse in the sixth could have been on-line. Collin Balester could have refrained from throwing a 2-0 fastball down the middle of the plate to Vernon Wells to give back a lead the Nationals had taken a half inning before, and the bullpen could have held the Angels to under five runs in the eighth.

“I’m an infielder,” Johnson said. “There are some wicked hops. … It’s hard. The ball, it ain’t slowing down. The good thing is nobody got hurt out there.

“We have a fine defensive team. The errors don’t bother me at all. It’s unfortunate that it happened. … I can’t blame the field. I’ve played on rough fields. It’s a fast field, but when balls are smoked and taking that tough little short hop on you, it’s tough out there for anyone.”

The field didn’t account for the 10 runners the Nationals left on base, though, including the bases loaded in the seventh. It didn’t affect any of the three home runs the Angels hit off Nationals pitching, and it didn’t have anything to do with Zimmerman not being called safe at first base in the sixth.

On a grounder to short that he looked to beat out upon replay, Zimmerman was called out, one batter before Laynce Nix crushed his 12th home run into the right center field bleachers at Angels Stadium, a swing that would have tied the game at the time had Zimmerman been on first. It was just one in a number of missed opportunities.

Nix, who was 4-for-4 on the night, left the game with tightness in his right Achilles that has hampered him some for a few weeks.

“You know, the pitching’s been great,” Johnson said. “So has the defense. It wasn’t too good today, but overall it’s been great. The hitting hasn’t been as good, and we picked up today. That’s baseball.”

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