Mets send Nationals stumbling to 3-2 loss

It's club's first series defeat at home since late April


July 08, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Beset by injuries and with few power hitters in the lineup, the Washington Nationals realize they have a small margin for error.

They can't afford too many close defeats like yesterday's 3-2 loss to the New York Mets in 11 innings.

They can't afford to leave droves of runners on base in key situations, which they also did yesterday.

They can't afford to lose much on their home field, which up to now has been their Xanadu where they feel almost unbeatable.

The Nationals can only hope that yesterday's loss isn't the start of a trend.

"This will only be a lull if we go to Philadelphia and play the same way," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "If this series doesn't fire them up, I don't know what will. They should understand why we lost."

The defeat ended some remarkable streaks for the first-place Nationals, who open a three-game series today with the Phillies and don't return to RFK Stadium until July 18.

Before losing three of four to the Mets, Washington had won nine home series in a row, including four sweeps, not losing a series since April 25-27 against the Phillies. They began yesterday with 30 home wins, tied with the Chicago White Sox for baseball's best home mark.

The Nationals also began yesterday having won 12 straight one-run games.

Yesterday, though, something was missing besides a win: timely hitting. In all, the Nationals left nine runners on base.

With the game tied at 2, the Nationals put runners on first and second with one out in the ninth but could not score. They left the bases loaded in the fifth, and a double play ended a first-and-third, one-out threat in the second.

Already missing first baseman Nick Johnson, shortstop Cristian Guzman and outfielder Ryan Church, the team couldn't start outfielder Jose Guillen yesterday because of bronchitis.

"I couldn't even sleep last night," said Guillen, who pinch-hit with one out and a runner in scoring position in the ninth. He flied to center.

Asked about injuries, Robinson said: "I'm not going to sit here and use that as an excuse for not winning ballgames in the series."

Outfielder Brad Wilkerson said the losses aren't from a lack of effort. "We're going out there and busting our [tails]," Wilkerson said.

After Tony Armas pitched seven strong innings, Washington's bullpen held New York scoreless until the 11th.

With one out, Carlos Beltran doubled off losing pitcher Luis Ayala (7-5) to the opposite field in left, and Cliff Floyd was intentionally walked. The next batter, Mike Piazza, hit a soft liner to right, scoring Beltran, who beat the throw from Guillen in right. Catcher Brian Schneider then threw to second to get Piazza and - in an unusual double play - shortstop Jamey Carroll threw back to Schneider, who tagged out Floyd trying to score.

Robinson emerged from the dugout before the bottom of the 11th to argue with umpires. He said New York took too long to get closer Braden Looper warmed up and into the game to replace Heath Bell (1-3). "The pitcher is supposed to go out to the mound in a timely fashion," said Robinson, who appeared to have had one frustrating day.

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