Armas Can't Take The Fifth in Loss

jose guillen
Jose Guillen slides in safely to beat the tag from Toronto's Gregg Zaun in the third inning Sunday. (Jamie Squire - Getty Images)
By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 27, 2005

Tony Armas Jr. was nearly speechless. The Washington Nationals starting pitcher tried to explain how he went from throwing a gem -- allowing no hits through 4 1/3 innings -- to being pulled before the inning ended. And he could not.

This was unfamiliar territory for the Nationals. For a while yesterday, it looked like they would secure yet another trademark come-from-behind victory. But after rallying early to take a lead and later to tie the game, the Toronto Blue Jays pulled away, beating the Nationals, 9-5, to snap their 12-game home win streak.

An afternoon crowd of 33,557 witnessed the Nationals fall one victory short of the franchise mark for consecutive home wins. The team that had been so dominant at RFK Stadium -- not losing here since June 1 -- also saw its lead over the second-place Atlanta Braves narrow to three games.

What's more, the Nationals dressed afterward without their first baseman, Nick Johnson, who left in the seventh inning after injuring his right heel when he came down hard as he crossed home plate. Afterward, team officials awaited results of Johnson's X-ray and MRI exam.

Even if the diagnosis is a bone bruise, team physician Bruce Thomas said, Johnson is doubtful for tomorrow's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates because he had trouble putting weight on the heel after the game. Thomas, however, said Johnson showed no ankle or knee discomfort.

When Johnson scored in the seventh -- stepping around catcher Gregg Zaun following 37-year-old Vinny Castilla's double to left field -- it tied the score at 5. The Nationals had rallied from a 1-0 deficit and then a 5-2 hole.

But this time, the Blue Jays responded with two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth.

"Late in the game, when you tie it 5-5 and come back and give it up, that's tough," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. "We had momentum, and then momentum switches sides."

Armas retired the side in order in the second, third and fourth but encountered trouble when second baseman Orlando Hudson stepped to the plate with one out in the fifth. Hudson deposited a high fastball over the right field fence, tying the score at 2.

Armas had the crowd cheering with two outs in the inning, the bases loaded and a 1-2 count on cleanup hitter Shea Hillenbrand. But the third baseman sliced the ball the opposite way into the right field corner for a ground-rule double, which scored two runs. In an instant, gone was the lead was gone and so was Armas, who was replaced by right-hander Hector Carrasco.

"Can't explain it," said Armas, who allowed three hits and four earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. "Don't know what the hell happened. I let my team down."

Robinson said Armas did not tire but "lost focus and concentration -- and did not make good pitches to a decent fly ball hitter [Hudson]."

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