By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2010; 10:56 PM
PHILADELPHIA - These excruciating moments were supposed to exist only as bad memories for Jason Marquis, buried and gone ever since his right arm was repaired and he salvaged his season. On Friday night, Marquis faced nine batters. He recorded one out. He handed the ball to his manager with no sign of protest. He walked off the field, eyes toward the grass.
About four months after Marquis produced the worst start in the crowded annals of horrific Washington Nationals pitching, he staked a claim to perhaps the second-worst. In a 9-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Marquis's night disintegrated instantly. With a large assist from bad luck, Marquis allowed six earned runs in one-third of an inning, retiring the first batter he faced and then allowing eight straight base runners.
"Some nights," Marquis said, "are going to be like that."
The line score was ripped out of Marquis's atrocious April, back when he pitched with bone chips in his elbow. Following surgery, rehab and a short adjustment period in the majors, Marquis had morphed into the starter the Nationals paid $15 million for two seasons - a 2.40 ERA and a .232 batting average against in the five starts before Friday night. And then he stumbled back into the abyss.
The summary of the game could be abridged to what happened after Shane Victorino popped out to Ian Desmond in foul territory to lead off the first inning: single, walk, single, single, single, hit by pitch, single, single.
The unraveling was complete, but more complex than the black-and-white play-by-play. This was different. The third single, by Jayson Werth, trickled just past the mound. Several singles were groundballs that snuck through the infield.
"I thought I made quality pitches," Marquis said. "The line probably doesn't indicate how I threw the ball. Nonetheless, it's a loss. And I'm not too happy about it."
The toughest break came when the bases were loaded with one out, the Nationals down 3-1, and Wilson Valdez, the eighth hitter of the inning, at the plate. Marquis desperately needed a double-play ball to escape the inning and keep the Nationals in the game. Valdez rolled a groundball to the right side of second base, right at Danny Espinosa.
"I saw a nice, big hop," Espinosa said. "It was an easy double play."
But before the ball reached Espinosa, it deflected off the leg of second base umpire Tim Tschida and bounded into center field. The rule, which was called correctly, hardly seemed fair: The ball was dead, the batter got a single and the runners advanced one base.
"That's part of the game," Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "You can't do anything about it. I know Tim, he didn't want to be in that situation. It was a double play, but it went their way."
Rather than an inning-ending double play, Marquis faced the same jam, except with one more run on the scoreboard. Roy Oswalt, the opposing starter, laced an RBI single to left field. Manager Jim Riggleman trudged to the mound. Miguel Batista replaced Marquis and finalized his line by inducing an RBI fielder's choice.
By the end of his short night, Marquis's start would stand next to his clunker from April 12 against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park, when he faced seven batters and they all scored. Promise had replace catastrophe until Friday night.
The performance also rendered moot all the good the Nationals accomplished. Ryan Zimmerman went 4 for 4, giving him his seventh career four-hit game, making him 12 for his last 24 and raising his average to .308. Adam Dunn made several slick scoops at first base and a diving stop. The bullpen - Batista, Scott Olsen and Doug Slaten - allowed one run in 62/3 innings before Carlos Ruiz drilled a two-run homer in the eighth.
In the end, though, little could affect the outcome aside from Marquis's start, a revival of something he wanted to forever keep in the past.
"He wasn't very lucky tonight," Riggleman said. "We've got a lot of faith in him."