Nationals fall short after rain delays

Nationals fall short after rain delays

BALTIMORE -- It was the bottom ninth inning at Camden Yards, and the score was tied at 2 between the Nationals and Orioles. Washington's closer Chad Cordero threw eight warmup pitches, and then the game was stopped because of rain at 7:55 p.m. ET. Cordero had to wait two hours and 17 minutes before he went back on the mound.

"To [warm up] not knowing what is going on, of course it's tough. I go out there, I warm up and everything and it gets called right away. You are sitting down for two hours," Cordero said.

Unfortunately for Cordero, it took him seven minutes to give up the game-winning single to Ramon Hernandez, who helped the Orioles edge the Nationals, 3-2. There were 36,290 fans when the game started, but only a few hundred by the time it ended.

There was a possibility the game could have been suspended and would have to have been played in its entirety, but the weather cleared around 9:30 p.m.

Cordero walked the leadoff hitter, Luis Matos, who found himself on second on a sacrifice bunt by Brian Roberts. To set up the doubleplay, Cordero intentionally walked Melvin Mora to bring up Miguel Tejada, the team's best player. Tejada didn't do any serious damage as he flied out to left field. Hernandez was the next hitter and the count was full, before he singled to left field to drive in Matos for the game-winning run.

"There is nothing to go through. I walked the leadoff guy and that was it. In a game like this you can't afford to do that. I did that and they get the big hit when they needed it," Cordero said.

It was a year ago at this time that Cordero was the most dominating closer in baseball. He had 15 saves without giving up a run. This June is a totally different story, as he has lost two games and has a 3.48 ERA and five saves.

"Last year happened and that was it. Last year is done with. I have to go out there and just pitch the way I can. If I have another good year, I have another good year," Cordero said. "I can't worry about people expecting too much out of me. If they are going to do that, that's what they are going to do. I have to worry about doing my job."

The game went through two rain delays. The first occurred in the top of the seventh. It lasted 25 minutes.

Nationals left-hander Mike O'Connor is from Ellicott City, Md., and he grew up an Orioles fan, watching players like shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and right-hander Mike Mussina. This time, it was O'Connor stepping on the same mound as Mussina pitched on from 1991-2000, and he didn't disappoint his many family and friends. O'Connor pitched six innings, giving up two runs on six hits. He threw 80, and 50 of them went for strikes. O'Connor left after the first rain delay.

"I felt pretty good as far as commanding the fastball," O'Connor said. "When I was out there was focusing on pitching, not all that other stuff."

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead against O'Connor in the first inning, when Hernandez hit a home run over the right-field wall.

But the Nationals took the lead in the top of the third off left-hander Adam Lowen. With runners on second and third and no outs, Royce Clayton grounded out to second baseman Roberts, but Alfonso Soriano scored on the play. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman doubled to drive in Jose Vidro.

The Nationals offense was shut down after that, for they collected one hit the rest of the way. Manager Frank Robinson has often said that when Soriano is on a roll, the offense is clicking. If Soriano is in a slump, the offense sputters. The latter is the case, as Soriano has eight hits in his last 51 at-bats. He went 0-for-4 in the game and when he goes hitless, Washington is 3-17.

Robinson said opposing pitchers are throwing a lot of breaking balls and Soriano is taking some fastball strikes.

"Sometimes you don't feel good at home plate. Sometimes you lose the emotions. Tomorrow is a new game and I will try to do the best I can," Soriano said. "I don't feel comfortable at home plate and letting those fastballs by me."

The Orioles tied the score in the fifth inning, when Roberts singled up the middle to drive in Jeff Conine.

Both teams had a chance to take the lead later in the game. In the bottom of the eighth, reliever Gary Majewski had problems finding the strike zone because the mound was slippery. He didn't say anything about it, however, to the umpires.

He walked two batters, and the Orioles had the bases loaded with one out, but Conine hit a perfect double-play ball to Zimmerman, who tagged third base. His throw to first baseman Nick Johnson was wide. Johnson dropped the ball, but picked it up in time to nip Conine.

"I let the mound affect me. I've never been one to blame one on anything. I was slipping a little bit, instead of calling the grounds crew to fix it. I tried to do what I could," Majewski said.

Although, Majewski got out of the inning, Robinson was not happy with Majewski's outing.

"We have been talking about it all year and we continue to do the same thing, getting behind hitters, going to 3-2, getting deep in the count and what do we throw? We throw fastballs and they get hit," Robinson said.

The Nationals had a golden opportunity to score in the top of the ninth inning. Brian Schneider was on second base, when Soriano hit a sharp groundball between short and third. Tejada made a great backhanded grab and threw to Mora, who tagged Schneider for the second out of the inning. Vidro then grounded out to end the inning.

"We are not clinking right now. We are not clicking on any cylinders. I really don't know why," Robinson said.

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