Nats Fall One Loss Away From Ignominy

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, September 26, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

Washington, DC -- It's not the way Tim Redding wanted to end his mostly positive season. On a chill evening in late September, Redding hoped to preserve his personal .500 pitching record for a team that started the contest a collective 39 games below .500. Unfortunately for Redding and the Washington Nationals, he was not as sharp as he had been most nights previously this season, and the Nats fell to the Florida Marlins 9-4, before 23,299 brave souls remaining to see the end of this disappointing season. The loss is Washington's 99th of the season, as the Nats have lost eleven of their last fourteen games.

Redding's very first pitch to the first batter of the game, all-star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, left the park as Ramirez launched his 33rd home run of the season. Rookie Cameron Maybin followed with a double, and would eventually score on a wild pitch. Before they had batted, the Nats trailed 2-0. Redding escaped the second inning unscathed, but would not last the third.

Ramirez started the damage again with a one-out double. Rookie OF Cameron Maybin sacrificed Ramirez to third, who then walked to home on a Jorge Cantu double to deep left field. OH Josh Willingham and 2B Dan Uggla both earned free passes from Redding which would haunt the veteran starter. OF Jeremy Hermida singled to right field on an 0-2 pitch, allowing Cantu and Willingham to both score. The next batter, 1B Gaby Sanchez, in first his major league start, doubled to the out of town scoreboard in right, driving in Uggla, and mercifully ending Redding's evening -- and season.

Marco Estrada entered and promptly allowed an infield hit to catcher Matt Treanor and Hermida snuck home from third, closing the book on Redding. He finished two and two-thirds innings, surrendering seven earned runs on seven hits and two walks. He struck out four and allowed one home run, Ramirez' solo shot to start the game.

Redding was one of the big stories for the Nats early this season, as he started the season 6-3 with a 3.16 ERA, prompting talk of an All-Star appearance. He didn't get a decision in any of his next nine starts, though, and went 0-3 with a 9.17 ERA over his last four. His season ends with a record of 10-11 and and ERA of 4.95.

"First half, real good," Redding said. "Second half ... not good."

The Marlins collected eighteen hits on the evening, and several new faces for Florida had big nights. Ramirez and Hermida both went 3-for-5 and rookies Maybin and Sanchez each collected three hits as well.

The Nationals batters did not fare as well against Marlins starter Josh Johnson (W, 7-1, 3.61). Johnson missed much of the season recovering from last off-season surgery, but he's quickly proving that he belongs in next year's rotation. He went six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and three walks.

Emilio Bonifacio and Pete Orr -- subbing for flu-ridden Ryan Zimmerman -- each had two hits for the Nats. Bonifacio's triple in the third inning led to a run, and he, Orr, SS Alberto Gonzalez and C Wil Nieves each had RBIs.

The highlight of the game for the Nats was LF Roger Bernadina's full-out diving catch onto the warning track just in front of the visitor's bullpen in left field, robbing 3B Jorge Cantu of extra-bases. It was, simply, one of the finest defensive plays you'll see from an outfielder, and gives hope that the young players the Nats are running out there to end the season will one day be part of a winning season, not one that needs to win its remaining four games to avoid triple digits.

Collin Balestar (3-6, 4.83) gets the first chance to keep 100 at bay, as he takes on Anibal Sanchez (2-5, 5.57) in the last game in the inaugural season at Nationals Park, weather permitting, at 7:10 pm.

NATS NOTES: The Seattle Mariners lost to the Los Angeles Angels last night, giving them 100 losses, to stay one game behind Washington for the worst record in the major leagues. Should they tie, Washington will still receive the first pick in next year's amateur draft due to finishing with a worse record the previous season.