Nats Kick One Away In Twin Cities

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, June 19, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

Minneapolis--The Washington Nationals found themselves in another tense ball game Wednesday night until the later innings, when the bullpen got hammered for eight runs in two innings against three pitchers, and the Minnesota Twins cruised home with an easy 11-2 victory. The Nats were in this game until late despite very sloppy defensive play early on, and the team combined for eleven hits and three walks, but could never manage to come up with that last hit to put them over the top. Such is life for a team without a legitimate power hitter, one that needs to string together three base hits to score one run.

The Nationals got plenty of single base hits; of their eleven total only one -- Felipe Lopez' upper deck solo home run -- was of the extra-base variety. Cristian Guzman and Elijah Dukes, the lead-off and number two hitters, both had three hits and set the table all night long. But the middle of the order -- Lastings Milledge, Dmitri Young and Jesus Flores -- combined to go 1-for-12 and left a combined 17 runners on base. At the bottom of the order, Aaron Boone and Lopez had two hits apiece, but Paul LoDuca and Kory Casto went 0-for-7 combined to leave them stranded.

Compounding the lack of reliable offense, the usually solid defense was atrocious, committing three errors and booting several other balls that could have been scored errors. LoDuca, making his first start at first base, was scored with one error on a misplayed grounder, but let another fairly routine ball eat him up for a single that eventually scored. Aaron Boone made a bad throw fielding a bunt in the first inning, drawing LoDuca into the base runner Carlos Gomez, who eventually scored. And center fielder Milledge flat-out dropped a ball transferring it to his throwing hand after fielding it off the giant baggie that imitates a right field wall at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, allowing yet another run to score. And this was all before the relievers did their damage in the seventh and eighth innings.

Washington starter Jason Bergmann (L, 1-5, 5.03) was shaky most of this start, but kept his team in it. He went six innings, allowing three runs -- one earned -- on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches, 61 for strikes, and did not allow a home run. In fact, the only extra-base hit he allowed was the double off the wall that Milledge misplayed, resulting in two runs for the Twins in the second. After that incident, Bergmann seems to settle down, and he did not let another runner past first base.

It was the seventh inning where things began to unravel. Saul Rivera relieved Bergmann and was completely ineffective. Carlos Gomez led off with a bunt single and went to second on a sacrifice. Joe Mauer (2-for-4, .332) followed with a shallow single that could not score the speedy Gomez. Not to matter, though, as Justin Morneau, second in the American League in RBIs, promptly singled to left to score Gomez. Rivera (two-third of an inning, two earned runs on three hits and two walks) walked Michael Cuddyer to load the bases, and Jason Kubel hit a sacrifice fly to left to plate Mauer to make the lead 5-1. Anyone paying attention this season would have known that would have been plenty of runs for the Twins to secure the victory, but they put an exclamation point on the win in the eighth inning.

The Twins batted around in the eighth off of Jesus Colome and Brian Sanches. Colome allowed five earned runs on three hits, two walks and one wild pitch in on inning of work. Sanchez, called in to clean up Colome's mess, fared no better, as two of the three batters he faced got hits. Sanches' final line (one-third of an inning, one earned run, two hits) was painful, but he eventually stopped the bleeding, getting former Nat farmhand Brendan Harris to strike out mercifully to close the frame.

Kevin Slowey (4-6, 4.37) got the win for the Twins, going six innings and allowing one earned run on seven hits and two walks, striking out four.

The last of the three-game series, and end of the nine-game road trip, is Thursday at 1:10 pm EDT. Shawn Hill (1-3, 4.61) matches up with Glen Perkins (2-2, 4.57).

NATS NOTES: The loss drops Washington's record to 29-44, twelve and one-half games behind division leading Philadelphia. The Nats are 15-23 on the road this season.

The team plans to recall Garrett Mock from Triple-A Columbus to start Saturday's game against the Texas Rangers. Mock made one start earlier for the Nats against San Francisco, pitching four and one-third innings. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks with no strikeouts. For Columbus, he is 4-2 in twelve starts, with a 3.13 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

The jersey giveaway for kids scheduled for Sunday's game versus the Rangers has been canceled. The first 10,000 children twelve and younger will receive a voucher for two tickets to any upcoming home game this season.

Nats Kick One Away In Twin Cities also posted at DC Sports Box.