Robinson emotional following win

Robinson emotional following win

WASHINGTON -- The character, Jimmy Dugan, played by actor Tom Hanks in the movie "A League of Their Own," yelled the famous words to his female ballplayer: "There's no crying in baseball!"

Don't tell that to Nationals manager Frank Robinson.

About 10 minutes after the Nationals defeated the Astros, 8-5, on Thursday afternoon at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, Robinson was sitting at the podium and, by his facial expressions, it looked as if he lost his best friend.

In fact, tears were streaming down his face as he talked about taking catcher Matthew LeCroy out of the game in the middle of the seventh inning after allowing the Astros to steal seven bases and committing two errors. The fans cheered loudly after Robinson made the move.

The entire press conference was somber. Forget the fact that Washington has now won three consecutive games and won five out of its last six games to improve its record to 19-29. Forget the fact that Ryan Zimmerman made two spectacular plays to save runs. Forget that Alfonso Soriano leaped to make a catch in the eighth inning and doubled off Brad Ausmus to end the inning.

Robinson was talking about the mistakes that he made before and during the ballgame. Robinson said he should have had catcher Brian Schneider activated from the disabled list on Thursday and start the game instead of LeCroy. Schneider is not eligible to come off the disabled list until Friday, and he had no choice but to start LeCroy. Wiki Gonzalez, who has a better arm, was unavailable because he was injured and Robert Fick, at the time, had not played a game behind the plate. It ended up being the worst game in LeCroy's big-league career.

The Nationals knew going into the season about LeCroy's shortcomings, that he had a productive bat but lacked defensive skills.

"It's not LeCroy's fault. We know his shortcomings. There's no doubt about it," Robinson said. "The Astros took advantage of him today and it is not his fault. That's my responsibility. I left him in the ballgame. And I appreciate what he possibly could do back there. He kept his head up. That's on my shoulders, that's my responsibility."

When someone asked Robinson about Jose Guillen playing in the game with a tight hamstring, that's when the tears came down Robinson's face. But the tears were not for Guillen, they were for LeCroy. Robinson felt he embarrassed LeCroy in front of the 24,733 fans.

"It has never happened before -- like what he had to go through today," Robinson said. "I don't like putting people in like that, but I couldn't do anything about it. I feel for him. I hope the fans understand. I appreciate him hanging in there as long as he did. I wanted him to know with the move I was not trying to embarrass him in any way. At that moment, I felt like I had to do it -- for the good of the ballclub."

LeCroy took it very well and said he would have made the same move as Robinson. LeCroy also said there was no need for Robinson to get emotional.

"I wasn't quite sure what was going on," LeCroy said. "Then I saw Fick get his gear on, but that's part of the game. I have to be a man. I have two children, so I have to be able to take whatever they throw at me. He told me that he wasn't trying to embarrass me. He was trying to get them to stop running."

Some of LeCroy's teammates expressed their feelings on the situation.

"He's out there trying, you have to give him that," second baseman Jose Vidro said. "It didn't look good out there. I will never question one of my teammates."

Said Schneider, "He got put in a position that no one wants to get put in, taken out in a middle of an inning. I feel for him. Hopefully, he doesn't take it too personally. He'll be OK. He knows how appreciated he is around here. The time he has been here, he has done a very good job for us."

Taking LeCroy out of the game overshadowed the victory.

Washington faced Andy Pettitte for the second time this season. On April 9, he scattered eight hits in an 8-3 victory over the Nationals. But Thursday was a different story, as the Nationals scored seven runs by the third inning against the left-hander.

In the first inning with one out, Nick Johnson singled to right field to drive in Soriano and give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

After Guillen grounded out to put runners on second and third, Zimmerman singled to left to drive in two more runs.

In the next inning, Vidro hit a three-run homer to make it a 7-1 game, and, an inning later, Zimmerman drove in his third run of the game with sacrifice fly to right field to send Soriano home.

"It was very encouraging to see that. It's encouraging to come right back and have a home run in the second inning from Vidro and we added another run," Robinson said. "It was not an easy game. But it should have been a game where we didn't have to do the things we had to do to pull that game out."

But the Astros made it a game by the seventh inning, and were only down by two runs. Nationals right-hander Tony Armas Jr. gave up four of the five runs in 5 1/3 innings, but he won his fifth game of the season.

It looked like the Astros were going to do a lot more damage in the seventh, but could muster only one run against reliever Jon Rauch. Houston had the bases loaded and no outs, but Rauch managed to get out of the inning by striking out Adam Everett, inducing Craig Biggio to pop up to shortstop Royce Clayton and getting Chris Burke to hit back to Rauch to end the inning.

According to Robinson, Rauch had no business being in the game. He was still experiencing a stomach ailment caused by food poisoning.

"He was out there throwing up in the bullpen and he should not have been in the ballgame," Robinson said. "But I felt like he could go for me, and he insisted on going."

The Nationals scored their final run of the game on a Vidro sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"We are putting everything together," Robinson said. "We are playing better on the field. It's not just on paper. We have to feel very good about ourselves right now."

For a few minutes anyway, Robinson didn't feel good about what he had to do with LeCroy.

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