Miscues, Bullpen Contribute to Another Loss in Florida

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 2, 2009

MIAMI, July 1 -- One simply cannot make this stuff up. The story line for the Washington Nationals' 5-3 defeat by the Florida Marlins defied reason and belief. Snickers might be justified. Consider:

The Nationals ran one of the best young pitchers in the National League out of Wednesday's game in little more than three innings with a barrage of base runners, but scored just one run against him.

Brand-new reliever Sean Burnett, in his first game after being acquired in a trade and lauded as the new cornerstone of Washington's battered bullpen, gave up a home run -- and a one-run lead -- to the very first batter he faced.

Reliever Julián Tavárez induced Marlins star Hanley Ramírez -- who drove in six runs and hit .636 against the Nationals during this three-game series -- into a slow roller toward the mound with the game tied in the eighth. But instead of throwing out Ramírez, Tavárez pitched the ball almost straight into the grass, about 60 feet short of first baseman Nick Johnson.

Ramírez scored the winning run moments later.

"He panicked," Nationals Manager Manny Acta said. He "booted it."

Whatever he did, it seemed contagious.

The Nationals lost their ninth straight game to the Marlins this season. Counting last year's meetings, Washington is 3-23 against a team that hardly qualifies as an NL powerhouse. And the Nationals claimed these defeats in the most exasperating of ways.

After a scoring change took away one of the three errors charged to Ryan Zimmerman in Tuesday's loss, Zimmerman responded Wednesday by throwing the first ball hit to him over the head of Johnson to, in effect, reclaim the error.

"It's been a long year for us," Tavárez said. "Everything [goes] right for them every time they play us. We made some errors. We're not able to bring guys home from third with less than two out. Our bullpen's not doing the job. It's just a combination of everything."

Of all of the problems, what really seemed to irk Acta was the epidemic stranding of runners. Washington left 13 men on base. Nationals hitters went 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position, and that figure included the single to right field that drove in Washington's first run against Marlins starter Josh Johnson.

That RBI came from starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann.

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