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Four-run rally, Hammer's homer lift Nats

Four-run rally, Hammer's homer lift Nats

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals played one of their strangest games of the season, but they rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat the Orioles, 7-6, on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.

The Nationals are back at the .500 mark at 22-22.

It was a game in which Washington made two errors, saw its first-base coach, Dan Radison, get ejected, Ivan Rodriguez leave the game because of a lower back strain and Nyjer Morgan make one of his worst mistakes since he joined the Nationals last summer.

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Washington utilized a four-run sixth inning to earn the victory. After Adam Kennedy singled, Roger Bernadina took a Brad Bergesen pitch and tripled to right field to score Kennedy. Alberto Gonzalez came in as a pinch-hitter and singled to right-center field, allowing Bernadina to come home and make it a one-run game.

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Orioles left-hander Mark Hendrickson replaced Bergesen and didn't fare any better. The bases were loaded when he faced Adam Dunn, who singled to center, driving in Gonzalez and Cristian Guzman to give the Nationals a 7-6 lead.

The winning pitcher was reliever Tyler Walker and Matt Capps picked up his 16th save of the season.

"They had some good at-bats, and they put up more runs than us." Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said.

But getting to that point didn't come easy for the Nationals. In the fourth inning, with the score tied at 2 and Matt Wieters on first base, Jones took an 0-1 pitch and hit the ball to deep center field. Morgan jumped as the ball hit his glove and the wall. However, Morgan thought the ball was over the fence and threw his glove to the ground out of frustration.

Left fielder Josh Willingham, who hit a two-run homer in the third, had to run to get the ball, but by the time it reached home plate, both Wieters and Jones scored to give Baltimore a 4-2 lead with Jones awarded an inside-the-park homer.

"Morgan missed the ball, and I saw it get away from him and I saw him mad," Jones said. "He threw his glove down, and I kept running. [Third-base coach] Juan [Samuel] just never stopped me, so I kept on running."

At first, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman wanted to take Morgan out of the game, but then he realized that Morgan thought that Jones' ball went over the fence. So the skipper decided to keep Morgan in the ballgame.

It helped that before the inning was over, Riggleman had plenty of time to think about what Morgan had done. Riggleman also realized the team couldn't afford to take Morgan out of the game because Rodriguez had already left the game in the third inning.

"My first instinct was to take him out of the ballgame," Riggleman said about Morgan. "And then I said, 'You know what? He thinks that ball went over the fence. He thought he knocked it over the fence and it's a home run.' That's not an excuse for it, and I don't want it to be perceived as an excuse, but it explains it.

"So he made a human error. It was a horrible thing, he made a terrible mistake, but it wasn't malicious. It wasn't directed at anything other than he was mad that he didn't catch the ball, and he thought he knocked it over the fence."

Morgan didn't have any excuses after the game. He indicated that he let his emotions get the best of him.

"I went back for the ball, I leaped up and thought the ball went over the fence," Morgan said. "I guess it didn't and it was standing right there. I really didn't check out the inside-the-park homer. My emotions got to me, because I knew I should have had the ball."

That would not be the last home run that Nationals starter Craig Stammen would allow in the game. After Guzman made it a one-run game with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth inning, Stammen gave up a two-run homer to Ty Wigginton to make it a 6-3 game.

Stammen pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed six runs -- four earned -- on nine hits.

"It wasn't good enough, bottom line," Stammen said about his start. "I gave up two homers. Two, two-run homers killed me."

Still the Nationals were able to win the game, despite the setbacks on Saturday.

"We made mistakes," Riggleman said. "Nyjer made a mistake, we made a baserunning mistake later in the game, we made a sacrifice bunt mistake, where we bunted the ball at the wrong place. We made a lot of mistakes, but we played hard.

"The team plays hard. I can't complain too much. If we play dumb, I let them know about it and we address dumb mistakes. We don't have dumb people, but we tend to make some dumb mistakes. That has happened a little bit lately."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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