Schneider, Mets Continue Pounding Nats, 9-3

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, August 15, 2008 | , , , | 0 comments »

Washington -- Brian Schneider and Carlos Delgado each hit home runs off Washington Nationals starter Collin Balestar, and the New York Mets took a one-game lead in the N.L. East over the Philadelphia Phillies as a result of their 9-3 victory over Washington Thursday night before 31,058 patrons at Nationals Park. Washington managed only six hits against Mets starter Oliver Perez and a trio of relievers. It was Washington's seventh straight loss.

Balestar was not sharp at all last night, as he allowed five earned runs on four hits and five walks in six innings. This is the second night in a row that walks have really hurt the Nationals' starters, as Jason Bergmann allowed six walks in Wednesday's start. Balestar took the loss, lowering his record to 2-5 and raising his ERA to 5.06. Balestar has yet to reach the seventh inning in any of his eight starts for the Nats. Last night was a season high for him in walks, and tied a season high in earned runs allowed. He also allowed five earned runs against Cincinnati on July 6, his second start.

The Washington rookie cruised through he first three innings, allowing no hits and just one walk, but the wheels came off in the fourth and things just got worse in the fifth. Mets OF Argenis Reyes led off the fourth inning with a single to left center field, and David Wright followed with a double to left that moved Reyes up to third. Carlos Delgado grounded to SS Ronnie Belliard, starting in place of Cristian Guzman, who was a late scratch with lingering soreness in his left thumb, and Reyes scored. Carlos Beltran drove a sacrifice fly to center that scored Wright on the next play, and the Mets took a 2-0 lead. In the fifth, OF Fernando Tatis walked on four straight balls, and Schneider drilled a 1-0 fastball to left center for his third home run of the season.

"This is the big leagues and guys make adjustments," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "That second time through the lineup, it looked like they made adjustments."

The Mets picked up another run in the sixth, as Delgado hit his 26th home run to straight-away left field, and the Mets held a 5-0 cushion.

Washington attempted to make a fight of it though. In the bottom of the seventh they finally got to New York starter Oliver Perez (W, 9-7, 3.91). Austin Kearns led off with a soft liner to center, but was erased on Aaron Boone's force out. C Wil Nieves walked, moving Boone up to second. Willie Harris fouled out for the second out, and Acta called for Pete Orr to pinch-hit for reliever Garrett Mock. Orr has been making the most of his time with Nats recently, and he has every right to relish his time with the team as he sacrificed a spot on Canada's Olympic team to remain with the last-place Nationals. Orr came though again last night, as he tripled to right field, driving in Boone and the slow-footed Nieves all the way from first base. Orr then scored on Emilio Bonifacio's bunt single -- not quite a suicide squeeze, but close enough -- and the Nats had cut the lead to 5-3. Unfortunately, that's as close as they could get.

"We had momentum for a little bit," Orr said. "But they did a good job of shutting us down the next three innings."

The Nats got two walks from Lastings Milledge and Austin Kearns in the bottom of the eighth, but Boone struck out and Nieves grounded out to end the inning without further incident. Milledge went hitless, ending his career-best 14-game hitting streak.

New York added four runs in the top of the ninth against closer Joel Hanrahan on a Damion Easley RBI single and errors on ground balls by Belliard and Bonifacio. Only two of the four runs charged to Hanrahan were earned.

Friday night Washington hosts the Colorado Rockies for the start of a three-game set. Tim Redding (8-7, 4.61) squares off with Jorge de la Rosa (5-6, 6.28) in game one at 7:35 pm from Nationals Park.

NATS NOTES: The loss drops Washington to 44-78 and are 21.5 games behind now division-leading New York, who move to 65-56 with the win. The Nats are now two games ahead of the Seattle Mariners and three ahead of the San Diego Padres for the worst record in the Major Leagues.

As of this post, the Nats have still not signed their first round selection from this year's Amateur Draft, RHP Aaron Crow from University of Missouri. Crow's agent, Randy Hendricks, issued a statement yesterday that Crow had signed a contract with the Independent League Fort Worth (TX) Rock Cats and will play there this season if their demands for an over-slot bonus and a Major League contract are not met. It is believed that Crow and Hendricks are looking for a bonus in the $5MM - $8MM range. MLB recommended slot bonus for the #9 pick is $2.15MM.

SS Cristian Guzman (thumb) and C Jesus Flores (stomach virus) were scratched from Washington's lineup. Guzman was originally listed with the starters but was a late scratch.

The Nationals activated INF Aaron Boone from the disabled list and placed SS Alberto Gonzalez on the DL. Gonzalez had lingered on the Nats bench for eleven games with his glut injury before finally being relegated to the DL.

Photo of Balestar (c) C. Nichols 2008.