Nationals stumble in 10-2 loss to Braves

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 12:34 AM

ATLANTA - The good vibes from their Monday midnight bonanza clung to the Washington Nationals at least a short while, for the first portion of Tuesday night. The parade of signing bonuses and pies in the face yielded to the scrappy pitcher who bounced back and the light-hitting backup catcher who saved the day. Next, you started to think, would come gumdrops and rainbows.

And suddenly it all unraveled into just another August dog day, the Nationals taking their place as fodder for the first-place Atlanta Braves in a 10-2 loss before 16,911 at Turner Field.

Scott Olsen allowed two base runners in the first five innings, only to exit, to his apparent surprise, in the middle of a ruinous sixth inning. Wil Nieves replaced Ivan Rodriguez after his first-inning ejection and smacked three hits, including a go-ahead double in the fifth. But the events that followed turned his contribution into a footnote. The Nationals allowed four runs in the sixth and another four in the seventh, dismal pitching begetting dismal defense.

"We totally let it get out from under us," first baseman Adam Dunn said. "That's a shame, because Ollie pitched really well. Things just kind of unraveled and kept piling on."

The unsightly finish came after such a promising start. Olsen, who earned $250,000 in accordance with an incentive in his contract for making his 12th start, instantly shed any residue from his previous start, when he allowed seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. Olsen mowed through the first seven hitters he faced in 18 pitches, less than three per batter. He set down nine straight to start the game and 13 of the first 15, allowing only a single off the tip of Ian Desmond's glove and hitting Matt Diaz on his unmoving toe with a curveball.

Olsen's only problem was that for five innings, Braves lefty Mike Minor, making his second career start, was just as good. The Nationals could not score until Nieves came to the plate with two outs in the sixth. Desmond had singled, and Nieves pounded a double that gave the Nationals the lead. Michael Morse crunched another double, putting the Nats up 2-0.

The cheery feelings in the Nationals' dugout ceased immediately. Diory Hernandez ruined Olsen's shutout by leading off the sixth inning with his second career home run, which doubled as Atlanta's second hit of the game. Omar Infante immediately provided the third, a triple over Morse's head in right. Pitching coach Steve McCatty visited Olsen and Joel Peralta started warming up in the bullpen.

Olsen walked Jason Heyward, ball four his 70th pitch. Manager Jim Riggleman emerged from the dugout. He had decided to try to limit the damage by using a right-hander to face right-handed batters Martin Prado and Matt Diaz.

"It wasn't going the way we wanted it to go," Riggleman said. "As great as he did, he lost it that quickly."

Olsen glanced at Riggleman, at the bullpen and back at Riggleman. His look seemed to say, "You're really taking me out now?"

Olsen handed Riggleman the ball while gazing past him, then stomped off the mound. Twice on his way to the dugout, Olsen covered his mouth with his glove and screamed. He chucked his glove on the bench. "You'll have to ask him if he was upset," Riggleman said. "I don't know."

Olsen exited the clubhouse before reporters arrived and declined to comment through a team spokesman.

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