By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 27, 2009
BALTIMORE, June 26 -- On Friday night, a video screen at Camden Yards showed the Baltimore Orioles' mascot running around downtown Washington. In the video, the outsize oriole turned a District resident into an Orioles fan by giving him a jersey and also placed a Baltimore cap on the head of Abraham Lincoln at his memorial.
It was insult to injury.
The Washington Nationals played inept baseball -- unable to hit, unable to field and unable to save themselves with a bullpen that has regressed -- falling to the Orioles, 11-1, before 45,024 at Camden Yards.
Manager Manny Acta summed up the night in a sentence: "They just beat us across the board."
The Nationals (21-50) struck out eight times. Starter Ross Detwiler (0-4) threw a sinker that did not sink. The team made two fielding errors. And not only did the Nationals' dismal performance dampen the signs of hope that emerged recently against other American League East opponents, but it raised more red flags about the relievers who have failed to provide relief.
There was a time when Joel Hanrahan was part of the solution for the Nationals' bullpen. On Friday, he strengthened the argument that such is not the case. In an eight-run sixth inning that made the difference, Hanrahan gave up four runs on three hits in an appearance that lasted only one-third of an inning.
On Tuesday, Acta challenged his middle relievers to step up; otherwise, he suggested, changes might be in order. In particular, he called out three pitchers: Hanrahan, Jesús Colome and Kip Wells. The Nationals designated Wells for assignment on Wednesday and recalled Tyler Clippard from Class AAA Syracuse. Hanrahan is out of options, so he would need to be designated for assignment or released by the team.
"It's very frustrating," Hanrahan said. "I know I'm better than this."
Acta said: "He's struggling. Right now, there's no way to hide him. We're just going to have to continue to pitch him in situations like this, when we're trailing."
Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen (5-2) continued to look impressive, working six innings and allowing one run on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Washington (21-50) could not solve the surging 23-year-old starter, who routinely induced ground balls by keeping his pitches low in the zone.
Catcher Josh Bard, who was hitting .381 in June entering last night, again served as a bright spot for the Nationals. He went 2 for 3, bringing in Washington's lone run with a single in the second inning.
Baltimore (33-40) received multi-hit performances from six batters in its lineup, for a team total of 16 hits. Detwiler was up in the strike zone and struggled against the Orioles' left-handed batters. He allowed five runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and two walks over five innings.
Asked to assess his performance, Detwiler simply said, "Terrible."
"We lost," Detwiler said after being asked to elaborate. "I gave up five runs in five innings. I didn't give my team a chance to win."
When Detwiler exited after facing two batters in the sixth inning, Washington was down by two runs. Detwiler's replacement, Hanrahan, could not provide much help.
Hanrahan fed the first batter he faced, Melvin Mora, a 1-1 slider that floated over the plate like a zeppelin and was crushed for a two-run double. Mora went 2 for 3 with four RBI.
Later in the inning, Adam Jones lined softly to right field to score Mora. Jones got the better of an 0-2 slider that did not slide, but instead hovered at belt level. Jones went 3 for 5 with a double and a triple.
Relying on his fastball and his slider, Hanrahan left pitches hanging perilously high in the zone. Acta had seen enough after Jones's single, removing Hanrahan after he had faced only five batters.
"It's still a long year," Hanrahan said. "You can't give up your year in June."
Two additional lowlights came in the form of errors. In the fourth inning, Nolan Reimold doubled to score Aubrey Huff with the aid of Josh Willingham's outfield error. Willingham dropped and bobbled the ball after Reimold's hit. And in the sixth, shortstop Cristian Guzmán could not get a handle on a hard-hit shot by Luke Scott.
By the time Guzmán made the error, Baltimore had taken a commanding lead in the rally inning and Washington was well on its way to another loss. On Friday, it was a total team effort.