Nationals allow four in ninth inning, lose to Mets, 6-3

New York gets to Burnett, wins sixth in a row

April 28, 2011|By Gene Wang | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — — First rain delayed the start of Wednesday night's game for the Washington Nationals. Then the visiting New York Mets put a hold on the Nationals' aspirations for victory, rallying for four runs in the ninth for a 6-3 triumph in which Washington wasted the most efficient outing of the season from starter Tom Gorzelanny.

The culprit in this case was Washington reliever Sean Burnett, who started the top of the ninth after Tyler Clippard had replaced Gorzelanny in the seventh. In winning their sixth in a row, the Mets got to Burnett right away, with left fielder Jason Bay, first baseman Ike Davis and center fielder Willie Harris, a late-game replacement, collecting consecutive singles.

Pinch hitter Chin-Lung Hu then sent a sacrifice fly to right that scored Bay for the tying run and allowed Davis and Harris to advance. Josh Thole's infield grounder to short was enough to score Davis for a 4-3 lead, and with Harris on third, Burnett intentionally walked shortstop Jose Reyes.

Daniel Murphy cleared the bases by lining a double to right, and when Mets closer Francisco Hernandez got center fielder Rick Ankiel to ground out for his sixth save, the Nationals (10-13) had lost for the sixth time in seven games and dropped their third in a row before an announced 13,568.

"It could have went either way there," Burnett said of the first two hitters he faced. "Could have been two outs and nobody on, or two guys on and nobody out, so unfortunately the luck didn't go my way tonight, and it kind of snowballed, and I just couldn't it under control."

Gorelanny, though, was in command of the Mets (11-13) and put his side in position to win by allowing one run and five hits over 6 1/3 innings. He needed just 85 pitches to help stake Washington to a 2-1 lead by the time he departed in favor of Clippard, who yielded the tying run in the top of the eighth on Murphy's solo homer.

But first baseman Adam LaRoche led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and advanced to third on a passed ball. Brian Bixler came in to pinch run, and catcher Wilson Ramos sacrificed to center for his fourth RBI in two games and a 3-2 advantage before it all unraveled.

Inclement weather caused a 45-delay before the first pitch and interfered with the Nationals' plans for the third time in six days. On Monday in Pittsburgh, there was a 21-minute rain delay during the fourth inning of a game that was the makeup of a postponement on Friday.

Then players had to come back to the District in the wee hours and be at Nationals Park early the next afternoon for the start of their series against the Mets, who went ahead first again on Wednesday, 1-0, in a third inning that began with catcher Mike Nickeas's bloop infield single out of the reach of diving second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Pitcher R.A. Dickey moved Nickeas to second with a sacrifice, and Reyes grounded out to second, advancing the runner the third. One batter later, second baseman Justin Turner lined a fastball to right field that scored Nickeas.

The Nationals tied it in the fourth in what initially had the makings of a more lucrative inning. It began with right fielder Jayson Werth's liner through the infield to left center for a single, and after LaRoche flew out to center, Ramos singled to right.

With runners on the corners, left fielder Michael Morse delivered a fly out to right that was deep enough to score Werth without a play at the plate. But Washington stranded its third base runner of the game to that point when third baseman Jerry Hairston grounded out to short to end the inning.

The Nationals, who left eight runners on base in all, got the leadoff hitter on to start the fifth courtesy of shortstop Alex Cora's slap single to left. Gorzelanny executed a textbook sacrifice to move Cora to second, and following Espinosa's groundout, Ankiel shrugged off the rain that had begun falling shortly beforehand to connect on a double to left.

Washington's lead stayed at 2-1, however, when Werth grounded out to first for the third out. Ankiel was left at third as well after moving there because of a high pitch that got past Nickeas, who was charged a passed ball.

Murphy's homer to tie it at 2 came immediately following a controversial play at third involving shortstop Jose Reyes, who doubled off Clippard and tried to stretch it into a triple as the ball rolled to the wall in left center.

Ankiel eventually retrieved the ball and threw to Hairston as Reyes slid head first, making sure to keep his hand on the bag, or at least it seemed according to television replays. Third base umpire Marvin Hudson didn't see it that way, though, and called Reyes out on Hairston's tag.

"Every loss is tough," said Hairston, who revealed he thought Reyes's hand may have come off the bag for a instant. "But hey, you've got to bounce back in this game. Game's over. Just got to move forward and get ready for tomorrow."

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