The bad news is that bizarre plays, an unnecessary jump near the right-field wall and one bad pitch ended up hurting the Nationals, who were defeated by the D-backs, 7-1, in front of 19,234 fans at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The Nationals have now lost four of their first five games.
The game-time temperature was 47 degrees, but it didn't affect Williams early, as he didn't allow a hit in the first three innings. However, he found himself in trouble in the fourth.
With one out, Alberto Callaspo slapped a base hit down the third-base line. As Callaspo was rounding first and going to second, left fielder Chris Snelling threw what looked like a perfect strike to second baseman Ronnie Belliard. Callaspo wasn't close to the bag when the ball reached Belliard, who didn't make an attempt to make a tag. Callaspo made it to second safely.
Belliard said he knew that the runner was coming, but said the throw was too wide for him to make a play.
"The throw was a little bit [on the other side] of the base," Belliard said. "I was too far from the base. So if I'm far from the base, I should have caught the ball and dove, but it was going to be a tough play." <
Manager Manny Acta saw things a little differently.
"The throw may have been on the other side [of the base], but, still, he probably should have given a better effort to tag the guy," he said.
After Orlando Hudson grounded out, Chad Tracy hit a deep fly ball to right field. Austin Kearns made what appeared to be an unnecessary jump near the wall as the ball bounced for a run-scoring triple.
"I knew it was going to be close," Kearns said. "I peeked back to see where the ball was, so I knew it was going to be right up there against it. I just tried to go up. I think I should have caught it."
Conor Jackson, the next hitter, hit a grounder to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who threw the ball away for an error that allowed Tracy to score the second run of the game.
In the sixth, Williams had his roughest inning as he gave up a three-run home run to Chris Young to give the D-backs a 5-0 lead.
|"I messed up. It was pretty stupid. I guess I thought maybe I could sneak in there. Obviously, it didn't happen. It was a dumb play. Hopefully, it will not happen again."|
|-- Austin Kearns, on getting caught in a rundown in the sixth|
Williams ended up pitching six innings and gave up five runs -- four earned -- on six hit
"I think he did OK," Acta said. "He gave us a chance for the first five innings. In the sixth after those two quick outs, he got out of rhythm a little bit behind and Young made him pay."
Williams' counterpart, right-hander Micah Owings, made his Major League debut and pitched five shutout innings. The Nationals' best chance to score early occurred in the fifth. With two outs, Washington had the bases loaded with Zimmerman at the plate. Zimmerman faced Owings in college, when Zimmerman was at the University of Virginia and Owings was at Georgia Tech.
Based on their history, Zimmerman was looking for a breaking ball. But Owings' first pitch was a fastball and Zimmerman took it for strike one. Owings threw another fastball, which Zimmerman fouled off. Owning then threw another fastball that was high and outside, but Zimmerman swung and missed for strike three to end the inning.
"It was a bad pitch to swing at. If the ball is down, I might hit it," Zimmerman said. "But it's tough to catch anything over 90 [mph]. I was trying to battle, and he made a good pitch and he got me to chase it."
Owings had a simple game plan against Zimmerman: don't get behind in the count.
"I was just trying to mix with him -- a little bit in and out, up and down and just try to stay in pitcher's counts and not behind in the count, where he might hurt you," Owings said.
Kearns wanted to score a run for the Nationals, but he ended up making a mental miscue instead. In the sixth, with Kearns on third and one out, Brian Schneider hit a ground ball to third baseman Chad Tracy. Kearns made an attempt to go home, then he stopped and headed back when Tracy threw the ball to Callaspo at short. Kearns then found himself in a rundown between third and home, and he was tagged out by catcher Miguel Montero.
"I messed up," Kearns said. "It was pretty stupid. I guess I thought maybe I could sneak in there. Obviously, it didn't happen. It was a dumb play. Hopefully, it will not happen again. I thought he was going to [throw to] first and [I took] off. It was trying to be too aggressive. Aggressive mistakes are sometime OK and sometimes they are not, and that one was not OK."
The Nationals collected only one hit through eight innings and didn't score until the ninth, when Ryan Church homered with two outs against reliever Juan Cruz.
"It was pretty bad offensively," Kearns said. "You get one hit going into the ninth and no runs, that is unacceptable. We can't have that."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.