Nationals Notebook

Nationals Cabrera Exhibits Customary Wildness in Loss to Marlins

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 9, 2009

MIAMI, April 8 -- Daniel Cabrera was mostly good Wednesday, which is to say, he wasn't quite good enough. Debuting for the Washington Nationals after five seasons with Baltimore, the 6-foot-9 right hander displayed the pattern that has long frustrated those waiting for him to fulfill his potential. He was erratic. He walked leadoff men. He tried to work out of trouble.

But, for the first four innings of a 6-4 loss against the Marlins, Cabrera did just that. By the fifth, he was protecting a 2-1 lead. All the wildness had amounted to nothing more than some daring escapes.

"Without that fifth inning," Manager Manny Acta said, "he would have pitched a very good ballgame for us."

Even with that fifth inning, Cabrera turned in the best start by a Nationals pitcher this season. But still, he yielded seven hits and five runs in six total innings. He walked two, hit a batter, and threw a wild pitch.

Four of Cabrera's earned runs scored in the fifth, all with two outs. Most costly was a three-run double by Dan Uggla, stroked into the right-center gap.

"I think everything was good until the fifth. That's why we lost the game right there, in that inning," Cabrera said.

Belliard Exits With Injury

Second baseman Ronnie Belliard exited Wednesday's game in the eighth inning because of a back injury. He is day-to-day. So long as he is unable to play, the Nationals will use Alberto González or Willie Harris at second.

Belliard said he first aggravated his back during an at-bat Tuesday night.

Acta Defends Milledge

Acta, on early criticism of center fielder Lastings Milledge: "I knew [to expect that] coming in. I knew that any ball that lands 15 to 25 feet from Milledge, one of you would ask a question about him the whole season. So you have to move on.

"Every one of us has our critics, but I was expecting that any ball that lands 25 feet from him or from [Adam] Dunn, one of you guys is going to ask about defense. And they are who they are. Milledge is not Torii Hunter, but he's Lastings Milledge; we like him, and he is our center fielder."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company