Valiant comeback in finale not enough

Valiant comeback in finale not enough

PHILADELPHIA -- If one wants to find a goat on the Nationals in their heartbreaking 12-10 loss to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon, infielder Damian Jackson said to blame him.

Jackson was involved in three plays that ended up costing the Nationals the game. He also made three errors after replacing Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the fifth with the Nationals down, 10-2. Manager Frank Robinson wanted to give Zimmerman a breather.

"I don't ever give up. That's not why I took [Zimmerman out]," Robinson said. "If that was the case, I would say, 'Come on, let's go in the clubhouse, its over.' We should be still playing, the score should be 10-10."

Zimmerman said he understood why the decision was made to take him out of the game.

"I wasn't surprised. [Robinson] just wanted to give me some rest," Zimmerman said. "People do it all the time. Damian can play there. There's nothing wrong with him going in there, either."

Of all the position players, minus the two catchers, Jackson is the least used of late. Since the All-Star break, Jackson has played just 10 games and received just 15 at-bats. To make matters worse, he played third base only once this season. The lack of playing time ended up hurting him on Sunday.

In the seventh, with the Nationals behind, 10-8, the Phils had runners on second base and nobody out when Ryan Madson bunted the ball near third base. Catcher Brian Schneider fielded the ball and threw a perfect strike to Jackson, who tagged Abraham Nunez at third base, but umpire Paul Nauert called Nunez safe on the play. Jackson argued the call to no avail. The replay showed that Nunez was out, as Jackson clearly tagged Nunez before the latter touched the bag.

"As far as my judgment and vision on it, I don't have the perfect view," Jackson said. "Guys that checked the tape said he was out."

Said Schneider: "I didn't need the replay. I could see right from the get-go it was a great tag by Damian. He slid right into Damian."

Nunez would later score on a sacrifice fly by Danny Sandoval to make it an 11-8 game.

After the Nationals made it 11-10 against Madson in the top of the eighth, thanks to a two-run single by Schneider, the Phillies added an insurance run because of two errors that were charged to Jackson.

With Chad Cordero on the mound and Aaron Rowand on first base, Mike Lieberthal bunted the ball toward Jackson, who tried to barehand the ball, but he bobbled it for an error, his second of the game.

Nunez, the next hitter, bunted the ball toward Cordero, who threw the ball perfectly to Jackson at third, but Nauert called Rowand safe on the play. Nauert contended that Jackson never touched the bag for the force play. The replay showed that Jackson, who was charged with his third error of the day, had problems putting his foot on the bag.

Although he argued the call, Jackson wasn't sure if he touched the bag in time for the out.

"Initially, I was straddled around the base," he said. "My argument was that Rowand kicked my leg to the base. I still think he was out, but I don't have any control over that. It's a play I messed up."

One batter later, Rowand scored on a sacrifice fly by Jimmy Rollins.

Jackson acknowledged that the game of baseball is currently "a little fast" for him because of the lack of playing time.

"I have to do a better job of trying to catch up to the game -- not playing it so long," Jackson said. "It's basically all I could say. It's the way it goes for me. I've had a lot of tough breaks. I don't know if I deserve it or not. There's nothing I could do. ... We had some good momentum and I think I took the wind out of our sails. I blame the loss on myself.

"I work my tail off during BP -- at third, at short and every outfield position. I try to stay ready. There's nothing like game speed. I have to do a better job catching up to game speed."

The Nationals started building momentum after being down, 10-1, after four innings. They started making their big comeback in the bottom of the sixth against starter Randy Wolf and reliever Rick White.

Wolf didn't record an out in the sixth. With runners on first and second, rookie Brandon Harper hit a three-run homer over the left-field wall to make it a 10-5 game. It was his second homer of the game. Harper became the second player in Nationals/Expos history to go from no career home runs to two in a game.

Wolf left after he walked the next hitter, Bernie Castro. White entered and quickly gave up an RBI double to Marlon Anderson.

After Alfonso Soriano struck out and Felipe Lopez and Damian Jackson walked to load the bases, Nick Johnson walked to bring home Lopez and make it 10-7.

Ryan Madson then entered for the Phillies and stopped the bleeding. After Austin Kearns had an RBI groundout to make it 10-8, Madson struck out Daryle Ward to end the inning.

"I think we showed a lot of character," Harper said. "We never gave up. We kept fighting."

The Phillies would score an insurance run and that turned out to be the turning point. Reliever Saul Rivera gave up the sacrifice fly to Sandoval to make it 11-8.

The Nationals have lost two consecutive games and dropped their record to 54-70. They became the fourth team to lose 70 games this season.

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