Washington Nationals Suffer Another Loss

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 16, 2009

On most evenings, extra innings are a recipe for excitement. But just hours before a day-night doubleheader, they were a burden to both the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.

Even after Nationals reliever Kip Wells threw the 41st of his 51 pitches in the 12th inning, one that Raúl Ibáñez sent up the middle for a two-RBI single, no one was warming up in the bullpen. There were no options left. The Phillies finally cracked open a tied game, as much a testament to endurance as talent. The Phillies added two more runs in the inning to seal last night's 10-6 win over Washington.

Both teams could blame their bullpens for the duration of the game. The Nationals used their entire bullpen. The Phillies turned to a scheduled starter from one of today's two games. When the game finally concluded, there were 15 total pitchers and 4 1/2 hours of baseball.

"We basically walked ourselves to death at the end of the game," said Manager Manny Acta, pointing out that the bullpen walked eight batters. "When you play with fire, obviously you burn yourself."

Acta said his bullpen would be fine today -- as long as his starters can last. The only reliever who will definitely not pitch is Wells. The Phillies will promote Andrew Carpenter from Class AAA Lehigh Valley to start today's nightcap.

Last night's final result spoiled an exciting ninth-inning comeback in the Nationals' return from a West Coast road trip that produced an unexpected .500 result.

Standing outside the batter's box before his first at-bat in the first inning of the first game of the Nationals' 11-game homestand, Ryan Zimmerman tipped his helmet toward the appreciative Nationals Park crowd. Although scarce, the audience gave Zimmerman a standing ovation in honor of a 30-game hitting streak that was halted on Wednesday in San Francisco.

Before the loss, Zimmerman spoke about the streak that ended just shy of returning home. The only remorse he felt was that those who reveled in his hitting successfully for 30 consecutive games -- the fans -- would no longer experience that enjoyment.

Zimmerman finished 3 for 6 with a double, an RBI and a two runs scored.

Zimmerman's most important hit came in the ninth inning, when he legged out a soft grounder to third base and revived a game that appeared dead after the bullpen blew a lead in the seventh inning.

With a runner on first and second, two outs and trailing by two runs, Willie Harris ripped a double down the first base line. Zimmerman scored easily from second base, and 275-pound Adam Dunn legged home from first base. Harris advanced to third on a throwing error, and suddenly the game was tied with the winning runner 90 feet away.

Austin Kearns struck out to end the inning, but the Nationals had done to the Phillies what so many teams have done to the Nationals -- hurt the bullpen and come from behind.

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