Relievers As Hitters
The Nationals, by now, are familiar with bizarre losses. But losses where the game-winning run is scored by a 31-year-old AL relief pitcher who hasn't batted in almost three years...? Well, that is what happened in tonight's 4-2 loss to the O's at Nationals Park. With the game tied at 2 in the 12th, Danys Baez came to the plate with two outs. He flubbed one down the line. Neither Kip Wells, coming off the mound, nor Ryan Zimmerman, charging from third, had a play on it. Baez, just like that, was 270 feet away from scoring the go-ahead run.
"That was long," Baez said of the initial 90-foot sprint. "It was really long. I've never been on those bases before during the game."
So what happened? Wells allowed back-to-back doubles, the O's scored two runs, and George Sherrill came on in the bottom of the 12th for the save. The Nats are now 12-29.
A few quick notes...
* The attendance was only 22,556, a serious drop from the first Friday night game against Baltimore at Nats Park in 2008. (That one drew 35,830.) For this night, the stadium was decked out with "Battle of the Beltways" signage. The Nationals wore their alternate red uniforms, and during the national anthem, the contingent of Baltimore fans let out a hearty "Ohhh."
Asked about the interest in this series, Manager Manny Acta said, "It's picking up, but what is it gonna take? Both of us to get out of the cellar. That's the bottom line. Everybody in the Baltimore area is rooting for their team and on with the plan of rebuilding, and same thing with our fans over here. But as [president] Stan [Kasten] usually says, you get the attendance you deserve, and not until both teams become more competitive in their own division, I don't think the rivalry will pick up as much."
* Good bullpen work today for the Nats. Ron Villone, surviving with nothing faster than 88 and nothing slower than 79 mph, chewed through the middle of the O's order in the 8th. Jason Bergmann worked a scoreless ninth -- though he walked the lead-off man in the tenth. But Joe Beimel took over from there (and you can't overstate how badly the Nats need him back in good form), finishing the scoreless frame by striking out Nick Markakis.
* Jordan Zimmermann (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) had none of the standard first inning troubles today, and he credited this to a new pre-game approach, a one-inning simulation in the bullpen. "I went out there [in the bullpen] a little earlier and threw some more pitches. Randy Knorr went out there and stood in, three hitters, just like the first inning... so I think it helped today. This is the best I've felt so far since I've been here. All of my pitches were working."
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