Issues with rain have become such a regular occurrence for the Nationals over their first 21 games that players’ patience clearly is wearing thin. Starter John Lannan had been in the early stages of a promising start during last night’s 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh at PNC Park when home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi stopped play in the fourth inning with two outs, a runner on third and the Nationals ahead by a run.
Worse, Lannan had gotten ahead of first baseman Steve Pearce, 0-1, before Cuzzi elected to halt play for what ended up being 21 minutes. Washington’s left-hander said afterward he felt he was on his way to retiring the final batter of the inning and was surprised Cuzzi made the decision when the rain wasn’t that big a factor at that point.
When play resumed, Lannan walked Pearce before giving up a two-RBI double to third baseman Brandon Wood for a 3-2 lead the Pirates would keep for good.
“I didn’t feel rushed or anything,” Lannan said of coming out of the delay. “I just made my pitches. I felt good warming up, and just going back out there after that little rest, I didn’t make pitches.”
While no one on the Nationals was holding the weather accountable for the club’s fourth loss in five games, this pattern of stoppages and postponements is growing ever more maddening. Washington has had three games called because of rain and a handful of other delays because of inclement weather.
The Nationals were playing yesterday, originally an off day, because rain forced postponement of their series opener against Pittsburgh. At the start of this six-game road trip, Washington had to endure a rain delay of 2 1 / 2 hours in St. Louis on April 19 before the game was called and a doubleheader played the following day.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “It’s Maryland. It’s Pennsylvania, and you’re going to get that. We’ve dealt with it before. We may not be past it yet. We may get some more. It’s just a situation you’ve got to deal with.”
The Nationals didn’t get help from the weather or the umpiring last night, although what appeared a missed call at first didn’t wind up costing any runs. The play in question came in the Pirates’ half of the sixth, when second baseman Neil Walker was at first. Walker had a big lead, and Lannan threw to LaRoche, who upon replay review clearly had the runner tagged out.
First base umpire Alan Porter called Walker safe, however, with LaRoche first pleading his case before Riggleman exited the dugout to protest the call. Walker was left stranded on second after Steve Pearce flied out to right, Wood reached on an error and catcher Chris Snyder struck out swinging.
“It ended up not hurting us,” said LaRoche, whose single in the first produced both Nationals’ runs. Porter “must have been blocked out on the play. Obviously he thought I missed him, but luckily no damage was done.”
The Nationals wrapped up this water-logged road trip with a 2-4 record and begin a six-game homestand tonight, starting with three games against the New York Mets. The forecast this evening calls for—guess what?—a chance of scattered thunderstorms.
“April showers. Can’t wait for April to be over,” Lannan said. “Let’s go to May.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals fell below .500 and lost the rubber match to Pittsburgh at PNC Park.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 2, Syracuse 1: Justin Maxwell’s homered in the botton of the 13th at PNC Field.
Hagerstown 3, West Virginia 0: Cameron Selik scattered six hits over eight innings with no walks and three strikeouts as the Suns won on the road.
Altoona 8, Harrisburg 7: Brock Holt and Starling Marte each went 4 for 5 in the series opener at Metro Bank Park. The teams combined for 15 runs on 27 hits.
Myrtle Beach 2, Potomac 1: Robbie Erlin tossed a two-hitter over seven innings with 10 strikeouts at BB&T Coastal Field.