Nats Left Longing For More

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 16, 2007

MIAMI, July 15 -- When the Washington Nationals packed their bags, slid into their suit jackets, boarded the team bus and made their way out of Dolphin Stadium for their return trip to Washington on Sunday night, they had finally accomplished something they hadn't been able to do all afternoon against the Florida Marlins:

Leave the ballpark.

The Nationals hit just one ball deep all day during their 5-3 defeat, and that was caught on the warning track in center field. Florida, meantime, repeatedly and forcibly changed the tenor of this three-game series with one swing of the bat, hitting a trio of home runs in each of the three games this weekend, the last two of which were losses for the Nationals.

"They say speed kills," Nationals Manager Manny Acta said. "I think power kills. Those guys out-hit us nine to zero. It was taking us two or three hits to score runs, and they just came up and, 'Whack.' "

To the delight of the sun-baked and humidity-soaked crowd of 12,119, star slugger Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs Sunday and Josh Willingham added another. Both players hit three in the series, and contributed to a quick-strike offense that essentially disabled Washington: The Marlins scored 15 runs on the nine home runs, including all of their runs in Saturday's 5-2 victory.

Washington, meantime, tried to keep pace by stacking up singles, doubles, walks and sacrifice flies. A small-ball windfall helped them to a 14-10 victory Friday, but the good fortune did not last. On Saturday, the Nationals struggled to hit the ball out of the infield, let alone out of the park, against sinkerball sensation Sergio Mitre.

On Sunday, the Nationals fared much better against left-handed starter Scott Olsen, who gave up six hits and five walks in five innings. But it's one thing to put men in scoring position. It's quite another to bring them home. From the first inning, when Washington opened the game with consecutive walks but could not score, frustration proved the afternoon's theme.

The Nationals had stranded 10 men by the end of the day.

"We had a chance all day to score runs and really open the game up," right fielder Austin Kearns said. "We just couldn't get over the hump and open it up."

Kearns provided Washington with its only jump-off-the-bench-and-follow-the-long-fly-ball moment Sunday, and the result was hugely deflating. Not only did his third-inning smash get run down by center fielder Alfredo Amezaga on the warning track in the deepest part of the park, but it also shut down the inning with two men on base.

Instead of a three-run home run -- and a 4-1 lead -- Washington went back out to the field with the tie score intact.

"I didn't think it was going to be caught," Kearns said. "I hit it pretty good. . . . You can't print [what I said]. It was a tough break."

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