Nats Lose Heartbreaker to Brewers in 13th Inning 5-4

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, August 11, 2008 | 0 comments »

Milwaukee -- After Friday and Saturday night's shut-out losses, some of the Washington Nationals bats finally arrived in Milwaukee Sunday afternoon. The Nats had eleven hits and two home runs, by Lastings Milledge and Austin Kearns, but could still only manage to score four runs and although it took 13 innings, the Nats fell to the Brewers for the third straight day, by the score of 5-4. The loss wasted six innings of one-hit ball by starter John Lannan.

It only took five pitches in the bottom of the 13th inning to decide the Nats fate. Luis Ayala had been brought on by manager Manny Acta to start the inning, after shut-out relief performances by Joel Hanrahan, Jesus Colome and Charlie Manning. Ayala faced muscular slugger Gabe Kapler, who had gone 0-for-6 to that point in the game. Ayala got Kapler into a 1-2 count, but couldn't close out the hitter, and after taking another ball, Kapler picked out one he liked and drove it over the fence in left field, prompting a celebration of his teammates and the 42,423 fans at Miller Park. It was Kapler's first walk-off hit of his career. Kapler, recently turned 33, continued his playing career this season after managing for a Red Sox affiliate last season. He is hitting .304 with 12 home runs for the Brewers this season and is proving a very valuable bench player for a contending team.

Ayala's season-long troubles continue. He's allowed five earned runs in his last three appearances, covering one and one-third innings pitched. The loss lowers his season record to 1-8 with a 6.04 ERA. Worse yet, it seems he's lost the confidence of his manager.

"We can't even hide him now," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "He comes into situations like this and he's just not making pitches."

Nats starter John Lannan once again ends up in hard luck. He pitched six innings, allowing one unearned run and just one hit, walking five and striking out six. The unearned run came against him in the 6th inning, his last inning of work. Kapler reached on a fielding error by 3B Ronnie Belliard, took third on an infield single that glanced off 2B Emilio Bonifacio's glove and scored on a sacrifice fly by all-star Corey Hart.

"This guy had a no hitter going into the sixth inning without his best stuff," Acta said. "He ran his pitch count with those five walks, but we're so happy for this kid. We've got a pitcher here. He's got four pitches and he can throw them for strikes."

The Washington hitters went out in the eighth inning against former all-star closer Eric Gagne' and grabbed the lead for the Nats on Kearns two-run shot (6) and Milledge's 12th home run of the season. Milledge has hit five home runs in August already and is riding an eleven game hitting streak.

The lead was short-lived though, as normally reliable Saul Rivera walked two and gave up an infield single before allowing a three-run double to Brewers back-up catcher Mike Rivera. Rivera has 54 at bats this season and just six extra-base hits. No matter though, as his hit tied the game at four to set up the extra innings drama.

Washington looks to get back in the win column today to break a three-game losing streak and avoid the sweep against the Brew Crew. Garrett Mock (0-2, 4.91) makes today's 2:05 pm start against David Bush (6-9, 4.50) for Milwaukee. Milwaukee has the second best record in the N.L. and trails the Chicago Cubs by four games in the N.L. Central. They lead the wild-card race over the St. Louis Cardinals by three games

NATS NOTES: Washington's record is now 44-74, last in the NL East and trails division leading Philadelphia by 20.5 games.