Another Wild Night Ends With Another Loss for Nationals

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 11, 2009

Only the Nationals.

As if there were any doubt, last night confirmed what is happening with Washington's baseball franchise has turned into a theater of the absurd. Some nights, the Nationals cannot field the ball. Other nights, their bullpen fails. Then there are times like last night when it makes you wonder if this team is cursed.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, rain cascaded down on Nationals Park. Lightning crackled across the sky. With a simple wave, players, coaches and fans went scurrying for cover when officials announced a rain delay. The 2 hours 10 minutes that the Nationals sat in the clubhouse painfully delayed the inevitable.

With less than 100 fans in the stands, the Cincinnati Reds hung on for a 4-2 win over the Nationals in 12 innings. Johnny Gomes doubled to left field to score Jay Bruce, who led off the inning with a walk, from third base. And then Jerry Hairston singled to left to score Gomes. The game lasted 3 hours 34 minutes.

Since May 10, Washington is 5-24

But there was a sign of hope last night for Washington. Down by two runs, Elijah Dukes led off the ninth inning with a walk. Then the rain came. The players left the field, replaced by a tarp. And for a long time, nobody seemed quite sure what was happening. At one point, the grounds crew removed the tarp and drained water from the field. Then it reapplied the tarp.

When the delay ended, Josh Willingham walked. He represented the tying run. With one out, Josh Bard smacked a single into right field to score Dukes. The next batter, pinch-hitter Anderson Hernández hooked a single into center field to score Willingham and make the score 2-2. It was closer Francisco Cordero's first blown save since July 21, 2008.

"I thought that our guys never gave up and that says a lot that we were able to get two runs off Francisco Cordero," Manager Manny Acta said.

Of the Nationals' 32 home games this season, 10 have been delayed because of inclement weather. As if their misery on the field were not enough.

Before the game, Acta said he only experienced this type of barrage from the weather when he managed in a league in southern Florida. There, he said, it rained every summer afternoon at 4.

"This has been very unusual, according to people in this area," Acta said of the Washington region before last night's game. "It's been kind of silly."

The Nationals have grown accustomed to the rain. During a delay, players said, they try to stay occupied. Often, that means turning on the Weather Channel and looking up the forecast. Ron Villone listens to Metallica. Willie Harris might play a card game known as Pluck -- "It's like spades," he said -- in the clubhouse. Some players might even take a nap, if they think the delay will last long enough.

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