A Short Night for Nats' Day; Chavez, Hammonds Called Up

Jose Guillen, Nationals lose to Dodgers, 4-2.
The Dodgers beat Jose Guillen, above, and the Nationals, 4-2, by chasing Zach Day from the game in the fourth, and getting a solid start Jeff Weaver. (Kevork Djansezian - Associated Press)
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

LOS ANGELES, May 3 -- On a hectic day for the Washington Nationals -- one on which they promoted two players, learned starting left fielder Terrmel Sledge will be out at least eight weeks and played a baseball game -- there was no more hectic play than the one that came with no one out and two on in the top of the seventh.

The situation: The Los Angeles Dodgers led the Nationals, 4-2, with Washington catcher Brian Schneider on second and shortstop Cristian Guzman on first. Manager Frank Robinson pinch hit Carlos Baerga for the pitcher's spot.

Baerga delivered, a floating single to center that looked to be enough to score a run. But no. Schneider got a late break from second, third base coach Dave Huppert told him to stop a bit too late, and by the time Guzman -- charging around second -- realized he couldn't take third, he was in never-never land. Guzman ended up being thrown out, the Nationals didn't score in the inning, and the Dodgers finished off a 4-2 victory in front of 41,190 rowdy fans at Dodger Stadium.

"That's the play," Robinson said, "that fouled us up."

The Dodgers got six decent innings from winner Jeff Weaver and a tie-breaking two-run double from catcher Jason Phillips. But this was a game the Nationals could have won.

Before all that, though, Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said Sledge's hamstring pull -- suffered in Monday's win over the Dodgers -- is the worst he's seen since Cincinnati star Ken Griffey Jr. suffered a career-altering injury in 2001.

"I'm really scared," Bowden said. "I couldn't sleep last night, praying for Terrmel."

Sledge underwent an MRI exam Tuesday, performed by one of the Dodgers team doctors, and the results showed a partially torn hamstring. No surgery is required, but the recovery time will be at least two months, a significant blow despite the fact he was hitting just .243 with eight RBI in 37 at-bats. Robinson hit Sledge fifth regularly, a job which fell to Ryan Church, who began the season as the starting center fielder, struggled and lost his job, but went 2 for 4 Tuesday.

"This is a really, really serious injury," Bowden said, "and it's a very serious loss for this team. People might not think so, because he hasn't performed. But he was going to perform."

The game was just the end to a day that brought a flurry of activity for the Nationals. Sledge's injury -- suffered in Monday night's win -- was coupled with the broken arm suffered by reliever Joey Eischen Sunday. The team moved Eischen to the 60-day disabled list, and then brought up a pair of outfielders -- 13-year veteran Jeffrey Hammonds and Endy Chavez, who entered spring training as the starting center fielder and exited after being demoted. Representing the tieing run as a pinch hitter in the ninth -- Robinson said he used Chavez against right-handed reliever Yhency Brazoban because Chavez hits from the left side -- he grounded into a double play.

Chavez hit just .269 with a .352 on-base percentage and five stolen bases for New Orleans, and Bowden went as far as saying, "Chavez has not made improvements getting on base." But in the near term, he gives the Nationals something they sorely lack -- speed.

Hammonds hit .250 with 15 RBI for New Orleans, and will be used primarily as a pinch hitter. The coaching staff in New Orleans felt Hammonds would be most capable of giving the Nationals quality at-bats as a role player even though outfielders Matt Cepicky and Tyrell Godwin had better statistics.

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