Two Months Later, Nats Finish Off Astros

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 10, 2009

HOUSTON, July 9 -- The Washington Nationals on Thursday completed a game that lasted 11 innings and took precisely 65 days 5 hours and 40 minutes. Between the first pitch and the winning run, the Nationals replaced six members of their bullpen, traded their pitcher of record (Joel Hanrahan), fired their pitching coach, sent their starting pitcher to the disabled list, activated him from the disabled list, and demoted Elijah Dukes while he stood on first base. Technically speaking.

As much a curiosity as a baseball game, Thursday's 11-10 Washington win against Houston at Minute Maid Park -- the conclusion of a suspended game from May 5 -- resembled the sporting equivalent of an unearthed time capsule. Once upon a time, back at Nationals Park, the Nationals and Astros were slogging through the 11th inning of a 10-10 game and then the skies opened up. Both sides waited out a 1-hour, 16-minute rain delay, until the umps called the game. Then both teams went about their merry ways, agreeing to resume this paused game in a new city, where the Nationals wore their road grays and used the visiting clubhouse but called themselves the home team.

The Nationals, once the game resumed, had some built-in advantages, and they came in handy. They had a runner on first, one out; the stadium PA announcer explained as much to the several thousand that showed up early. What the announcer didn't say, though:

On May 5, Dukes had stood on first. Now, Washington used Nyjer Morgan, its fastest player, recently acquired in a trade with the Pirates.

On May 5, Josh Willingham was coming to bat with a .135 average. Now, he had a .290 average.

After just eight pitches, and one fielding error, Washington won the game. Willingham ripped a solid single to left, putting runners on first and second. With that, catcher Josh Bard came up to pinch-hit for Hanrahan, who just so happened to be part of the trade package that netted Morgan.

Bard chopped a 2-2 pitch from LaTroy Hawkins toward second base, an ideal double-play ball. But after taking the toss from second baseman Jeff Keppinger, shortstop Miguel Tejada sailed his throw over the head of first baseman Lance Berkman. Morgan crossed home uncontested, and immediately exchanged high-fives with Willingham, all part of a restrained postgame celebration.

Up in the press box, the scorekeeper noted the final score and said, "The winning pitcher is Hanrahan, now 1-3."

Suspended games are rare; this was Washington's first since moving to the District. They also concoct some bizarre scenarios. In advance of this game's resumption, Manager Manny Acta pulled out the original lineup card and glanced at his cadre of relievers. Already, he had used five of them: Saúl Rivera, Julián Tavárez, Garrett Mock, Kip Wells and Hanrahan. Only Tavárez is still on the roster.

"The whole bullpen is available!" Acta said, eyeing the restocked roster. "Except Tavárez, I've got a whole new bullpen."

When the Nationals arrived at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, a messy scorecard -- with names crossed out and circled -- was posted in the clubhouse hallway. Players needed a refresher. See Austin Kearns, playing right field? He entered as a defensive substitute for Adam Dunn in the top of the ninth. Dunn, speaking earlier this week, had forgotten that entirely. "I'm really disappointed," Dunn said.

"Now the real question," said reliever Jason Bergmann, pitching for Class AAA Syracuse on May 5. "Do I get service time for all the consecutive days since May 5? Do I get paid for this game? That's the question."

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