Patterson, Nats Stress the Positives to Beat Reds
Thursday, August 25, 2005
The frustration built in John Patterson, not just last night, not over the past month, but over the entire season. It wasn't that he hasn't pitched well. Quite the contrary. It was the toll of what he goes through, start after start, wondering if this would be the pitch that cost him, if allowing a single in a certain situation would make him a loser on a night he deserved to win.
"That's accumulated stress," Patterson said last night. "Pitching in all those one-run games over a period of four or five months, it can wear on you. It can wear on you physically, and it can wear on you mentally."
It almost got to that point last night, the point when Patterson, as he said, nearly "cracked." He let go of a 1-0 lead, and couldn't afford to give up more. He faced a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, and had to work out of it.
"It was time to get tough," Patterson said.
Which is just what the lanky right-hander has done when the Washington Nationals needed it. Last night was just the latest example, a 5-3 Washington win over the Cincinnati Reds in which Patterson delivered the kind of performance that the announced crowd of 32,641 has come to expect from him. He threw 8 1/3 innings, allowed three runs and struck out eight. And he didn't relax until the ninth, when he gave up a two-run homer to Javier Valentin.
"He's at the point where you expect a good outing every time," Manager Frank Robinson said. "I don't mean just keeping you in the ballgame. I mean a well-pitched game."
The offense took awhile, but it finally came, a solo homer from Jose Guillen -- his second in two nights -- and a three-run seventh that featured key two-out, run-scoring hits from Brian Schneider and Vinny Castilla. That allowed Patterson to step back from the edge of the cliff, cruise through the eighth, and then enter the ninth calm and collected. The pitch he threw to Valentin was his last, and it cut a four-run lead in half. But Chad Cordero came on for his 40th save, striking out Edwin Encarnacion and Wily Mo Peña for the final two outs.
"It's pretty cool," Cordero said of notching number 40 faster than any closer in club history.
Cool is the way Patterson (8-4) looks when he takes the mound. But last night, he admitted that the Nationals' propensity for forgetting how to score when he pitches can get to him. His last start, for instance, was a 1-0 loss to the New York Mets. So take last night's sixth inning, when he was protecting a 2-1 lead, unable to make a significant mistake. With two outs, he appeared to have Ken Griffey Jr. retired on a liner to right.
But Guillen, who has had his moments in the field, first broke back on the ball, then broke in. It was too late. It hit off his glove, and skittered past him. It was ruled a single and a two-base error, and Griffey scampered to third.
So here came the stress.
"I almost cracked," Patterson said. "The stress was starting to get to me. The stress of it all year."