"You're pitching for a last-place team in a half-empty stadium. What can be intimidating right now?" Manny Acta, April 30, 2009.
THE RESULT: Julian Tavarez, yesterday's hero for earning the save in Philadelphia, allowed five runs--just two earned--on two hits and two walks in the top of the ninth to turn a tie ballgame into a 9-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals before a sparse, mostly pro-Cardinal crowd at Nationals Park.

That the Nats were tied going into the ninth was miraculous enough. Daniel Cabrera started and was terrible again, but managed to limit the damage despite giving up four hits and walking five in six innings, and setting a team record with four wild pitches.

Tavarez entered the tie game in the top of the ninth and immediately erased Albert Pujols on one pitch. Unfortunately, that's the only out he would record.

He walked Chris Duncan, then gave up a double to the left field corner to Rick Ankiel that Adam Dunn was unable to cut off, and Duncan scored from first. Third baseman Joe Thurston walked, then Tavarez hit catcher Jason LaRue smack in the middle of his chest.

Tyler Greene, who made his major league debut, then hit a dribbler up the third base line that Ryan Zimmerman could not field cleanly. Ankiel scored easily, and Thurston, noticing Cristian Guzman was late backing up Zimmerman, never stopped as he rounded third.

Guzman finally got to the ball and threw home early enough to get Thurston, but Jesus Flores dropped the ball and appeared to be backing away from the contact as he misplayed the ball.

Manager Manny Acta then summoned deposed closer Joel Hanrahan, who, on his very first pitched, balked home a run. Greene then stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly for the fifth run of the inning.

THE TAKEAWAY: Good job by the offense coming back each time the Cardinals scored. Other than that, I got nothing. Wonder how long it takes before one of the hitters gets up into the grill of one of the relievers?

THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. 1-for-4 with his fifth home run of the season. He hit another ball later to right center right up against the wall.

THE BAD: Logan Kensing. Making his Nats debut, he relieved Michael Hinckley with one out and a man on first. He promptly gave up a single to Pujols and then walked Chris Duncan on four pitches before Ankiel drove a ball to right center that Austin Kearns made a nice play on, resulting only in a sacrifice fly instead of a double to the gap.

THE UGLY: Gee, where to start? Even though Cabrera 'only' gave up three runs, it wasn't due to lack of effort. Five walks and a four wild pitches? How long does he keep getting sent out there to stink it up?

Michael Hinckley got one out and gave up a hit and a walk and a run. That ain't doing your job.

And we went through the Tavarez/Hanrahan inning ad nausem in the recap. If you thought a 36-year old (36? Yeah, right) journeyman who has pitched for 12 teams in his 16 year major league career was the answer, then I don't want to know the question.

NEXT GAME: We do it all again tomorrow night, as Jordan Zimmermann (2-0, 2.38) takes on Todd Wellemeyer (1-2, 6.14) at 7:05 p.m.

NOTES: Zimmerman's first inning homer extended his hitting streak to 19 games.