Nats' Only Sparks Come From Ejected Pitcher

Nats Manager Manny Acta intervenes as pitcher Odalis Pérez argues with umpire Angel Hernandez after being ejected for arguing his second balk.
Nats Manager Manny Acta intervenes as pitcher Odalis Pérez argues with umpire Angel Hernandez after being ejected for arguing his second balk. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Andrew Astleford
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pitcher Odalis Pérez fumed. He stood beside his locker, dumbfounded by what had transpired. He couldn't believe he had been ejected again, tossed after arguing with umpire Angel Hernandez in a shouting match that brought out the fire in both men.

"He is stupid," Pérez said, his face tightening in anger. "He is stupid and is an idiot.

"I hate that. I know I'm going to get fined, but I don't care. I want to protect my teammates and myself, too. . . . I've been using the same move all year. Why does he have to call it twice in the same inning?"

Hernandez called a balk twice in the top of the third, and it somewhat overshadowed another dismal offensive performance for the Washington Nationals. The Arizona Diamondbacks beat Washington, 2-0, last night and, for one night at least, postgame discussion strayed from the team's rash of injuries, suspect bullpen and nonexistent hitting.

Said Manager Manny Acta, "It's a little mind-boggling to me that this guy takes the mound twice every five days, and nobody else calls a balk on him and this guy drops two on him in one night."

Said catcher Jesús Flores: "From my view, it wasn't a balk. . . . I can understand why he's upset."

It began innocently enough: Pérez retired Robby Hammock on a groundout, and two batters later, he struck out pitcher Brandon Webb on a missed bunt. Next, Chris Burke reached on a throwing error, and then Chris Young entered the batter's box. On a 1-0 count, Pérez swung his hips, spun his torso toward first base and snapped the ball in an attempt to catch Burke off-guard.


Young singled on a soft line drive to left field and Burke scored, giving Arizona a 1-0 lead. Stephen Drew batted next, and Pérez attempted the same move to catch Young at first base -- the same one he said he had used all year.

Another balk.

"It's personal, and I hate that," Pérez said. "I don't like that. He's bad. He's awful. He's the worst."

Hernandez declined to comment.

The fifth inning was typical of the Nationals' offensive tease. Kory Casto, who made his first appearance since being called up from Class AAA Columbus, injected life in a quiet crowd by lining a sharp drive to right field for a double.

However, after a visit from Arizona coaches, Webb calmed down, regaining his composure just in time to face Austin Kearns. Webb threw him six fastballs. Finally, on a 91-mph offering, Kearns belted a drive toward left-center field.

Fans rose, hoping for an instant that it would have the distance to fly over the wall. Instead, it landed softly in left fielder Young's glove for the third out.

"We just couldn't get it done," Acta said. "Twice, we had base runners with less than two outs. . . . I don't think [Webb] had his best stuff tonight. He left a bunch of stuff out of the zone. When he had to, he made good pitches."

Earlier, the fourth inning had more frustration for Washington. With one out, Kearns singled on a sharp line drive to left field. Dmitri Young followed by smacking a single to right, and Kearns advanced to third.

Flores saw a sinker and two fastballs fly past him for the second out. Finally, Wily Mo Peña struck out on a 91-mph fastball to close the inning. The crowd booed as another scoring opportunity had been wasted.

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