Nats Pitching Wastes Power Surge; Lose to Mets 13-10

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, September 11, 2008 | , , , , | 0 comments »

Queens -- There have not been many instances where the Washington Nationals have hit three home runs in one game this season, let alone lose a game in which they accomplished the feat. But that's the exact scenario that played out before 52,431 screaming New York Mets fans Wednesday night at Shea Stadium, as the Nats fell 13-10 to the division leaders.

For the second night in a row at the soon to be replaced and demolished Shea, the Nats fought back from a large deficit and scored more runs than their season average, only to be ultimately thwarted in their efforts to play spoiler to the contending Mets. Cristian Guzman continued--and added to--his amazing run at the plate, smacking two home runs and driving in five on yet another three-hit night. His "slash" numbers (batting average, on-base average and slugging average) are all at full single season career highs at .314/.344/.445, and he now has nine home runs and 52 RBIs for the season.

The Nats also got a long home run by Elijah Dukes, his eleventh (2-for-4, 2 runs), who taunted the crowd on his way around the bases and then at the dugout, blowing kisses to the Queens faithful. Dukes later would be brushed back and have words with Mets starter Mike Pelfrey, and in a subsequent at bat, hit by Pelfrey on a 3-2 count.

"Some people react different than other ones," Manager Manny Acta said of Dukes. "It's very common after a homer to get pitched inside. I think we'll let it go at that."

Washington totaled ten runs on eleven hits and five walks, and on a normal night, that might have been enough for victory. But David Wright led the Mets on a thirteen hit, eight walk evening of their own, as he went 4-for-4 with a walk, home run, three RBIs and four runs scored. Wright, almost forgotten in New York with the re-emergence of 1B Carlos Delgado, is hitting .296 with 28 HRs and 109 RBIs for the Metropolitans. OFs Carlos Beltran and Fernando Tatis each added three hits and two RBIs as well, and former Nat Brian Schneider chipped in with a two-run single in what would be the deciding seventh inning.

The Nationals found themselves down early in the game, due to a season's worst outing by starter Odalis Perez. Perez surrendered an RBI single to Beltran in the first inning, got through the second unscathed but then completely collapsed in the third. Perez struck out his opponent, Pelfrey, to start -- and finish -- the inning, an indication of just how bad it was. With one out, SS Jose Reyes singled to center, then stole second base ahead of Ryan Church's base on balls. Wright knocked in Reyes and moved Church to third with a single up the middle. Beltran took Perez' second pitch to deep left center for a double, scoring Church and advancing Wright to third base. Perez intentionally walks Delgado to get to Tatis, and the surprisingly resurgent outfielder made him pay, as he crushed one to deep left center for a double as well, plating Wright and Beltran. Second baseman Damion Easley finished the carnage, singling to left field, scoring Delgado and Tatis.

Just like that, the Nats trailed 7-1. Perez would complete the inning, but not return for the fourth. He allowed seven runs -- six earned -- on eight hits and three walks. But as poorly as he pitched, he did not take the loss.

The resilient Nats scored a single run in the fourth on a Wil Nieves ground out, three in the fifth inning courtesy of a Ryan Zimmerman ground out and Kory Casto two-run single, and two in the sixth inning on Guzman's two-run shot to right field to take Perez off the hook and tie the game.

Unfortunately, Saul Rivera (L, 5-6, 3.68) gave the lead right back in the bottom of the seventh, allowing consecutive singles to Wright and Beltran, Delgado's sacrifice fly, and Schneider's bases loaded, two out, two run single. The score was 11-7 entering the eighth inning, but the visitors were still undaunted. Aaron Boone hit a one out single to left center and Emilio Bonifacio walked, setting up Cristian Guzman's second home run of the night, a deep blast to right field just in front of the Big Red Apple that looms over right field. With just one out though, the Nats could not extend the rally, as Zimmerman flied out and Milledge grounded to third to go to the bottom of the inning still trailing by one.

The score didn't stand there long though. With Joel Hanrahan on the mound, Church drew a five pitch pass and Wright, capping his perfect evening, took a 2-2 fastball to deep left center, and all left fielder Roger Bernadina could do was watch it leave the park. Luis Ayala entered for the Mets, and recorded his second 1-2-3 save in as many nights for New York, his seventh in eight attempts since the trade.

The recent scoring outburst has to be a harbinger of good things toward next season, but the disappointment of scoring 18 runs in two games --with two losses to show for it -- was evident in the Washington dugout following the final out.

Washington is off on Thursday before starting a three-game series in Miami against the Florida Marlins. Friday's starters are expected to be Shairon Martis (0-1, 3.60) and Scott Olson (6-10, 4.41).

NATS NOTES: The loss drops Washington to 56-90. San Diego lost as well, so the teams remain tied for the worst record in the Major Leagues. Seattle won, and is now three games ahead of both teams in the loss column.

C Jesus Flores tested his sprained ankle before the game, and was still in a considerable amount of pain doing the simplest drills, such as playing catch. The team will not rush his return, Acta said.

Stock Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008