Bergmann Returns, But Nats Fall Short

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

ATLANTA, June 25 -- By this point, the Washington Nationals need some sort of spreadsheet to keep track of their players. Perhaps a daily roll call instituted by Manager Manny Acta. "Bergmann!" Acta could yell in the clubhouse. "Here!" the right-hander would reply -- for now. "Guzman!" Acta would follow, and the room would fall silent.

That was the daily toll for the Nationals on Monday. On the day Jason Bergmann returned to a major league mound for the first time in six weeks, shortstop Cristian Guzman had surgery to repair ligaments in his left thumb. One had a season start anew, the other had a season screech to a halt. Somewhere in the middle of it all the Nationals lost a 4-1 decision to the Atlanta Braves -- one sparked by seven solid innings from right-hander Tim Hudson and four RBI from catcher Brian McCann. But who can keep track of that anymore?

"You look down the list of every team," team president Stan Kasten said. "Two guys, three guys, three guys, two guys. And then you'd get to us -- 12 guys."

Well, it's not 12 anymore. Just nine. But 13 different guys on the disabled list at some point in the season. And while this beat-up bunch has done well to hold itself together -- going 23-19 since May 11 -- it can, at times, be hard to imagine how they will do it much longer. Bergmann, who hadn't pitched since nearly no-hitting the Braves on May 14, had watched from the bench for the better part of the month, then had two rehabilitation assignments to prepare for his return.

"It's good to be back in the mix," he said. "It's been tough watching the guys."

Heck, it's been tough being the guys lately.

"Thank God that these guys have given us the effort that they have given us, and we're still surviving," Acta said. "But yeah, we have encountered every worst possible scenario. I hear a lot of teams complain about their injuries and stuff, and I guess ours is not such a big deal because we're not supposed to win."

Monday, the scenario involved two key components to decide the game -- Hudson, who allowed just one run and struck out nine; and McCann, who not only drove in the only run off Bergmann with a two-out single in the fourth, but clubbed the game-changing two-out, three-run homer in the sixth off reliever Billy Traber.

That shot, though, came after Bergmann had completed his 76-pitch outing, one in which he lasted only four innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter so the Nationals could ease him back into the majors. But even after he labored through a 27-pitch fourth that prevented him from going further, the reviews were unanimously positive.

"I felt real good," Bergmann said.

"In my opinion," added catcher Brian Schneider, "he's just going to get better every time out."

"He looked nice and loose tonight," Acta said. "I was happy."

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