Same Old Story: Nats Come Up Short

The Marlins' Miguel Cabrera, right, is greeted by Jeff Conine after they scored on a double by Paul Lo Duca off the Nats' Tony Armas Jr. in the first inning.
The Marlins' Miguel Cabrera, right, is greeted by Jeff Conine after they scored on a double by Paul Lo Duca off the Nats' Tony Armas Jr. in the first inning. (By Alan Diaz -- Associated Press)

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By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 30, 2005

MIAMI, July 29 -- All day, the failings of the previous afternoon tormented Ryan Church. The Nationals were at a tropical resort on Miami Beach on Friday, but their rookie outfielder's mind stayed in Thursday's eighth inning in Atlanta, with a fastball down the middle of the plate that he fouled back instead of smashing into the bleachers.

Three pitches later he struck out, effectively ending Washington's hopes that day and leaving Church alone with his lament.

"I just felt I let everybody down," he said Friday night in the hours before the Nationals lost yet another game, this time 4-3 to the Marlins. "I felt I let the team down. I felt I let [Manager] Frank [Robinson] down."

Then he looked at the floor and shook his head.

So here he was a few hours later. This time in the seventh inning in a game the Nationals had again scrapped and clawed to get themselves back into, he was called to the plate to pinch-hit with two men on and two out and Washington down a run. And once again there was a fastball, this time from a Florida reliever named Jim Mecir, right across the middle of the plate at about 85 mph -- the kind of pitch Church loves to crush.

Only he watched for strike two.

Two pitches later he had struck out once more. And there was his long walk back to the dugout. Once again it was the last real chance the Nationals would have to win a game.

"Same old thing, it feels old," he said later, once again staring at the floor.

Such is the way it has been in this collapse. The same old thing.

"All it takes is one hit there, and the game changes," Church said.

There were many reasons the Nationals lost their fifth game in a row and only one had to do with Church. They needed their starting pitcher Tony Armas Jr. to be something like the pitcher he was last week when he pitched a one-hitter against the Colorado Rockies. Instead, he gave up three runs in the first inning and failed to bunt a runner to second, contributing to the death of a second-inning rally.

There was also the ground ball that shortstop Cristian Guzman missed that might have kept Armas from his first-inning troubles.


CONTINUED     1        >

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