Correction to This Article
This June 14 Sports article incorrectly said that Washington Nationals pitcher Matt Chico did not strike out a batter in Washington's 9-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Chico struck out three. The article also said that Robert Fick pinch-hit for Tony Batista in the 11th inning; Fick entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement.

Nats Blow It, Then Blow It Open

Robert Fick, Ryan Langerhans, Cristian Guzman
Robert Fick, Ryan Langerhans and Cristian Guzman all score on Felipe Lopez's triple in the 11th inning. (Toni L. Sandys - The Post)
By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 14, 2007

BALTIMORE, June 13 -- On into the night they went, the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles, two teams in last place in their respective divisions playing like squads fighting for wild-card spots. In the end, the Nationals prevailed, 9-6 in 11 innings.

Pinch-hitting for first baseman Tony Batista in the top of the 11th, Robert Fick lifted a single into shallow left-center with two outs off Baltimore closer Chris Ray. Ryan Langerhans and Cristian Guzman followed with walks, loading the bases.

After arguing a called strike with the home plate umpire, Felipe Lopez tripled down the right field line, providing the Nationals a three-run lead.

"I had to go out there and calm [Lopez] down, speak a little Spanish to him," Manager Manny Acta said of the argument. "The credit goes to Lopez. He's the one who had a huge hit for us."

It was his only hit in six tries.

"It was good for us to get a win," Lopez said. "I'm just happy we won."

The game went into extra innings after Nationals closer Chad Cordero walked Melvin Mora to start the ninth with Washington clinging to a one-run lead. After getting two outs, Cordero surrendered a single to Aubrey Huff that put men on first and second.

That brought up Jay Payton, who already had three hits in the game. He blooped a single to shallow center to score Mora.

Nationals starter Matt Chico worked 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs, two earned, on eight hits. He walked one and did not strike out a soul. Six of Chico's last seven starts have ended in no-decisions, and he has gone longer than six innings only twice over that stretch.

"My confidence is good," Chico said. "I'm feeling stronger every outing. I'm trusting in myself more, and I'm trusting in my defense. I don't care about my record."

Chico left the game with a 4-2 lead after surrendering a two-out double in the seventh to Nick Markakis. Acta then handed the ball to right-hander Jesus Colome, who walked Miguel Tejada.

Left-hander Ray King then took his turn at trying to end the inning, but he gave up an RBI single to Huff. Jon Rauch was then asked to give it a shot, but Payton slapped a two-run double into left-center. Rauch induced Kevin Millar into a fly out to Langerhans to end the inning.

The Nationals, however, rallied in the top of the eighth. After a fly out by designated hitter Dmitri Young advanced runners to second and third, right fielder Austin Kearns came to bat with two out and his team trailing by a run. Kearns singled home a run, and left fielder Ryan Church did the same, staking the Nationals to the lead once again.

Kearns finished with three hits and two RBI. In the sixth, he drove in Ryan Zimmerman from third with a single to make it 4-2. Zimmerman had led off the inning with a drive to center field that eluded a diving Corey Patterson and bounced to the wall, allowing Zimmerman to turn what should have been a single into a triple.

Zimmerman's bonus bases made up for the ones he thought he had, but didn't, in the fourth. Tejada fielded Zimmerman's leadoff grounder but threw it over Millar's head. Thinking the ball had gone into the stands, Zimmerman turned toward second and took a few steps.

The ball actually bounced off the short wall beyond first base, which would explain the astonished look on Zimmerman's face when Millar tagged him out.

Langerhans, who has platooned with Nook Logan in center field of late, hit his second home run of the season in the top of the fifth inning on a 1-2 offering from Orioles starter Steve Trachsel, giving the Nationals a 3-1 lead.

Mora answered for the Orioles to lead off the bottom half of the inning. He sliced his ninth home run of the year 340 feet down the left field line.

Chico labored at times, working himself into jams and relying on his defense to get him out. In the bottom of the third, Chico retired the first two hitters before giving up a single to Markakis and walking Tejada. Guzman ranged to his right at shortstop to snag Huff's grounder and made the throw to first in time for the inning's final out.

In the fourth, Chico put away the first two batters before allowing the seams to loosen. Patterson and Paul Bako ripped back-to-back singles before Brian Roberts grounded the ball to second baseman Lopez, who tossed the ball to Guzman at second to end the inning.

After being retired in order in the top of the first inning, the Nationals scored in the second. Young led off with a single and moved to third on Kearns's double to the gap in left-center. The runners scored on successive groundouts by Church and catcher Brian Schneider.

Zimmerman started off the bottom of the first inning with a throwing error on Roberts's roller. Roberts stole second and scored on a two-out single by Tejada.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company