By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Washington Nationals starter Jerome Williams survived last night, even after Atlanta Braves leadoff hitter Kelly Johnson banged a ball into the pitcher's lower leg in the first inning, only inches from his recently injured ankle. He survived even when, in the third inning, his backside got in the way of a liner off the bat of Edgar Renteria, just moments after Johnson nearly hit Williams again.
But with the bases loaded later in the decisive third inning, Williams knew immediately he couldn't continue. After allowing a bloop RBI single on a slider to Andruw Jones, Williams felt a pulling sensation in his right shoulder.
He called out the team's trainers, explained his pain and quickly started the slow, sad walk to the dugout in Washington's 6-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves in front of 21,258 at RFK Stadium.
The Nationals already have placed two starting pitchers -- John Patterson and Shawn Hill -- on the disabled list in the last 10 days. Manager Manny Acta said after the game that Williams likely would become the third.
"It's very frustrating," said Williams, who suffered a rotator cuff strain in his first start since April 28. "I don't know what's going on right now."
The Nationals, a team that has already pressed Jason Simontacchi and long reliever Levale Speigner into service as starters, now face another search for another arm to throw into what's devolved into a patchwork rotation. "It's just going to give somebody else an opportunity to pitch at the big league level," Acta said.
Williams, who remained dejected in the clubhouse after the game, is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam today. "I've never felt that kind of thing before," he said, his arm still throbbing.
Jones's hit keyed a three-run inning that put the Braves ahead 5-0, a margin that Braves starter Tim Hudson made nearly insurmountable with a dominant seven-inning performance in which he allowed just one run on three hits with four strikeouts. Hudson, whose 1.77 ERA is among the best in the National League, cruised through the Nationals' lineup the first time without allowing the baseball to leave the infield.
"When you trail 5-0 against him, the way he's been throwing the ball, basically from then on it's how long is the game going to last now," Acta said. "He's been that dominant."
Hudson's only blemish came in the fifth inning, when Ryan Langerhans singled in Brian Schneider, who reached base by drawing a two-out walk. With Hudson out of the game, Washington scored again in the eighth when Nook Logan tripled to lead off the inning and scored on Tony Batista's sacrifice fly. But it hardly was enough for the Nationals, who failed to extend a four-game winning streak.
Before the game, Acta said he didn't expect no-hit stuff out of Williams (0-5, 7.20 ERA), which he displayed in his last start, a one-hit performance against New York. Instead, Acta simply hoped that Williams would be good enough to give the Nationals a chance to win.
But it was clear early on that he would not.
Williams allowed a two-run homer to Renteria, which gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead, the lowlight of a 29-pitch first inning for Williams. He rebounded in the second inning, inducing a double play. Schneider even said Williams looked sharper.
"After that second inning, I thought he was going to be okay," Schneider said. "Then he had problems."
Williams allowed four straight singles to open the third, the last of which came on Jones's flare that fell to the ground just in front of a hard charging Austin Kearns. It was Williams's 48th and final pitch.
"Even from he first inning, he didn't look like he had much," said Acta, who pulled Williams with the bases loaded and nobody out. "Just a bad outing."
The final damage: two-plus innings, seven hits, five earned runs, one more frustrating injury and one more headache for the Nationals.