Nationals fall to Mets in extras

Nationals fall to Mets in extras

WASHINGTON -- Missed opportunities ended up hurting the Nationals, who lost to the Mets, 3-2, in 11 innings at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

With the Mets taking three out of four games, it's the first time the Nationals have lost a series at home since April 25-27, when they lost two out of three to the Phillies.

The box score said that the Nationals lost Thursday's game in the 11th inning, when the Mike Piazza took a 1-0 pitch from Luis Ayala and blooped the ball to short-right field to score Carlos Beltran and give the Mets the 3-2 lead.

But the game was lost a few innings earlier. The Nationals had chances to score runs in the second, fifth and ninth innings, but couldn't capitalize on the opportunities.

In the second, with Mets starter Kris Benson on the mound, the Nationals had runners on first and third and one out, but Marlon Byrd hit into a double play to end the inning.

The way Vinny Castilla saw it, Washington should have had a run before Byrd hit into the double play.

With one out, Castilla hit a ball that bounced on top of the 380-foot sign in left-center field. Castilla had to settle for a double, but he felt in any other ballpark, he would have had his seventh home run of the season. RFK Stadium continues to prove that it is a pitcher's park.

"The ball would have been way out in any other ballpark in America," Castilla said. "I crushed this ball and it's a double."

In the fifth inning, with the score tied at 2, Matt Cepicky led off with a double. Manager Frank Robinson asked pitcher Tony Armas Jr. to get the bunt down to advance Cepicky to third. However, Armas had a difficult time getting the job done.

After Armas got behind 0-2, Robinson came out of the dugout and told Armas to get the bunt down on the ground and not to try to aim it at a certain spot. Robinson's words of wisdom didn't work as Armas fanned for the first out of the inning.

"Benson threw three cutters that were nasty," Armas said. "What can I say? It was a tough pitch to bunt."

After Wilkerson flied out, Jamey Carroll singled and Jose Vidro walked to load the bases. But Baerga bounced out to Benson to end the inning.

The Nationals had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. They had runners on first and second and one out. But Jose Guillen flied out to Beltran in center field and Wilkerson checked his swing, but grounded out to David Wright for the force play at third.

"It was a bad pitch and I kind of check swung," Wilkerson said. "I thought maybe it was a foul ball. It was frustrating to have the count in your favor. It was an unfortunate situation. It hit the bat and went fair."

With three games left in the first half, Robinson hopes the offensive lull will come to an end against the Phillies in Philadelphia.

"If this series doesn't fire us up, I don't know what will," Robinson said. "They understand what's happening here. I shouldn't have to go and fire them up. I may say something before Friday's game, but I shouldn't have to. They should understand what's going on here and why we lost these games, and we should try to do something about it."

Armas, who didn't figure in the decision, started for the Nationals and had his second consecutive quality outing. He pitched seven innings and gave up two runs on two hits.

The Mets manufactured their first run in the first inning. After Jose Reyes walked, stole second and went to third on a sacrifice by Mike Cameron, Beltran grounded out to Carroll at shortstop, but Reyes scored on the play.

Benson also was solid for the Mets as he pitched seven innings and gave up two runs on seven hits.

The Nationals scored those two runs in the bottom of the third inning. With runners on first and third, Vidro doubled to left-center field to score Armas and Wilkerson.

The Mets tied the score in the top of the fourth when Piazza doubled to left-center field to score Beltran.

The winning pitcher was Heath Bell, while Ayala took the loss.

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