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Sunday, April 19, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Nats blow lead, lose to Marlins 9-6 in 11, fall to 1-10

I was disappointed that I wasn't able to use my tickets to the Nats/Marlins game yesterday, but it was a 1:05 game, and I work Saturdays. To compound my envy for those who A) didn't have to work, and B) were going to the game, the weather was 100% glorious, as almost-perfect a spring day as one could wish for in Washington. To make matters even more vexing, it was schedule-magnet giveaway day. Fortunately, I was able to give my tickets to a friend.

If you had the opportunity to go to the game and turned it down because of the Nats record, I think that you kind of missed the bigger picture of what baseball joy is all about; watching your favorite team on a beautiful afternoon. I mean, really, is there a nicer way to spend an ideal spring afternoon? Isn't that what so many of us missed about growing up in D.C. from 1972 until 2005?

So with no T.V. available to me, I did what any other devoted Nats fan would do when confronted with such barriers: I simply put on Charlie and Dave and played out the action in my head (oh, and on the gameday feature of

Things certainly looked bright at the end of the first inning, as Austin Kearns hit a grand slam to put them up 5-0. The Nats were getting hits galore, and their fortunes were looking as bright as the sky over Nationals Park.

That was the good.

The club had a sad scare late in the game when Roger Bernadina, playing centerfield for Elijah Dukes, who was being disciplined for being 5 minutes late for work, went way back to the wall to snag a long fly ball and made a spectacular catch and throw, but fractured his ankle in the process and had to be helped off the field. He had two screws inserted into his ankle, and will be out for several months, and the club has called up Justin Maxwell from AAA Syracuse to fill in for him.

That was the bad.

With starter Scott Olsen and the bullpen having allowed only 4 runs, the Nats were one out away from victory at the top of the 9th, when closer Joel Hanrahan allowed a home run with a man on base to suddenly tie the game, 6-6. The game went into 11 innings, and the Marlins chalked up 3 more runs and the Nats lost 9-6.

That was the ugly.

What are the odds that a closer is going to have two consecutive blown saves, on consecutive days, to the same opponent, both of which were home runs which tied the game? I hope that Hanrahan's teammates kept all sharp objects away from him and confiscated his shoelaces afterwards.

After the game, I was certainly conflicted. I sure was disappointed in the surprise loss, and I didn't have to eat my heart out that I'd missed a great win (I still wish I'd been there for Kearn's grand slam, though) and I didn't feel so bad that I'd been inside on such a great day.

There's been a lot of chatter online about the Nats decision to sit Elijah Dukes for being 5 minutes late to work. Dukes had been doing something for Little Leaguers, some sort of community outreach that the Nationals encourage the players to do, even though this wasn't a club-sponsored event. Not only was Dukes on the bench for most of the game, and fined $500, supposedly he's been threatened by acting General Manager Mike Rizzo with being sent down to AAA Syracuse if it happens again.

I think that this whole situation is ridiculous. There have to be extenuating circumstances and a certain degree of flexibility on the part of the club. It isn't as though he was late because he was out drinking all night and overslept, for crying out loud. But being threatened with being sent down to the minors? Good grief.

Dukes is obviously turning his life around from his troubled past and doing what the club asks of him. The $500 fine I have no problem with, that is still a punishment.

I'm beginning to wonder if sitting Dukes wasn't an excuse to give Bernadina some playing time. Manager Manny Acta is having trouble trying to accomodate all of his outfielders so this might have been a perfect act of expediency on his part.

But what an odd confluence of events which has sent Bernadina to the disabled list. I just learned that the Nats have already sent 7 players to the disabled list this season. Shades of 2008, and let's hope that it doesn't get any worse.

I hope that after Sunday, that we're done with the Marlins for a while.

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