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Nationals show fight in strange loss

Nationals show fight in strange loss

MILWAUKEE -- The Nationals played arguably their weirdest game of the season, when they used six pitchers and every position player in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Brewers.

With the score tied at 3 in the ninth, reliever Drew Storen started out by striking out Carlos Gomez, but the inning went downhill after that. Storen allowed a single to Rickie Weeks and a walk to Joe Inglett

Ryan Braun came to the plate, took a 1-0 pitch and singled over the head of left fielder Josh Willingham, scoring Weeks to end the game.

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"I got off to a good start, [but I didn't] make the right pitches," Storen said "Later in the inning, it came back to hurt me. Tie game in the ninth inning with those hitters, you really can't get away with that."

Braun had a good feeling that he would drive in the game winner.

"He's got great stuff," Braun said of Storen. "All those guys coming out of the bullpen have great stuff. It's a battle every night, and every win is a good win.

"I knew the game was going to be over. I thought it had a chance to get out. But either way, I figured the left fielder wasn't going to have a play on the ball. Definitely a good feeling."

Right-hander J.D. Martin started for Washington and didn't have anything in the tank, even though he allowed just one run in 2 1/3 innings. In fact, the team thought Martin was injured in the bottom of the second inning.

With the count 1-1 on Jonathan Lucroy, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, pitching coach Steve McCatty and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz went to the mound to check on Martin. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez was the first to notice something was wrong with Martin.

Martin said he was OK and remained in the game, but he would later leave after one out in the third, with runners on first and second.

The team announced after the game that Martin was being placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a bulging disk in his lower back. Martin has had problems with his lower back for several years and has not needed surgery.

Martin was replaced by Collin Balester, who would give up a solo homer to Jim Edmonds in the fourth inning for a 2-0 Milwaukee lead.

The way things were going for the Nationals, Riggleman thought the Brewers were winning handily.

"It had a feel like we were getting blown out early," Riggleman said. "We were not doing much with Manny Parra, who was very sharp. J.D. is hurting, and Edmonds hits another home run. It just had the feel that they were blowing us out, but we hung in there. We really could have won the ballgame."

The Nationals would come back and tie the score by the top of the sixth inning off Parra. The strangeness came in the fifth inning, when it looked as if Washington blew an opportunity to score.

With runners on first and third, Ian Desmond hit a long fly ball to Edmonds, who made a great backhanded catch in center field. Edmonds and second baseman Weeks were then able to double off Mike Morse at first base for an inning-ending double play.

However, an inning later, the umpires ruled that Willingham scored from third before Morse was doubled off first base. Rule 4:09 in the 2010 edition of Official Baseball Rules states that the lead runner can score before the runner on first is thrown out.

Riggleman found out about the scoring change through umpire Dale Scott in the bottom of the fifth inning, when he went to make a pitching change.

"This one didn't have that feel that we would get that run. I saw Dale go over and talk to [Brewers manager] Ken Macha. I thought maybe that was what he was saying, but he didn't come over to tell me. So when I got up to make a pitching change, he said, 'You know the score is 2-1."

In the top of the sixth inning, Alberto Gonzalez added a run on a sacrifice fly by Roger Bernadina.

The Brewers would go ahead with a run off Miguel Batista in the bottom of the sixth as Edmonds touched home plate on a double by Lucroy.

But Washington tied the score at 3 in the top of the ninth inning off closer John Axford. With the bases loaded and no outs, pinch-hitter Adam Dunn hit a sacrifice fly that scored Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals had a chance to take the lead in the same inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Wil Nieves hit a medium fly ball to right field that was caught by Inglett. It looked as if Willingham was going to score on the play, but he stopped halfway down the third-base line and went back to the bag. What made it worse was that the throw by Inglett was off line.

Willingham said if he had to do it again, he would have tried to score on the play. Third-base coach Pat Listach took responsibility. He told Willingham to tag up, but should have use the word "go" instead.

"He tagged and then he read the throw. He thought the throw was on line. From that angle, you can't tell if the throw was at the plate or 15 feet up," Listach said.

With the loss, the Nationals dropped their record to 42-56.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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