Nationals miss chance to sweep Twins

Nats miss chance to sweep Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Some of the smallest dimensions hurt the Washington Nationals in a big way Sunday.

Dmitri Young missed a first-inning home run by a few feet, starting pitcher Mike Bacsik was just missing his spots early and the Nationals couldn't complete a three-game sweep of Minnesota, falling 6-3.

Young hit a blast over the foul netting into the upper deck in right field. First ruled fair by first-base umpire Ron Kulpa, all four umpires conferred and the ball was ruled foul. Televised replays were inconclusive.

"The majority of us saw it foul, and the key on that is just getting the play right," said crew chief Dale Scott. "These foul poles don't go all the way up, and this was over the pole. So that makes it a lot tougher to try to judge where it was when it left the park. But the key for us, when you have a disputed thing like that, is to get together and make sure we're all on the same page. Obviously Ron [Kulpa] had it fair, but if we had it definitely foul, we're going to flip it."

Bacsik said the excitement of a potential two-run lead before he took the mound lasted for about 30 seconds, but the ensuing disappointment didn't play a role in his early-inning struggles.

Minnesota scored three times on four hits in the first inning, and added another with three straight singles in the third.

"They did a good job of taking balls that were outside, but up enough for them to handle, and shot the holes and got some base hits," Bacsik said.

Most of the Twins' hits were up the middle or to the opposite field.

Only three of the runs were earned against Bacsik (1-3), who allowed nine hits in five innings. Called up from Triple-A Columbus on May 20 to replace Jason Bergmann, who has been out with right elbow inflammation, Bacsik allowed six earned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings last Tuesday. He has lost three straight starts.

"I didn't think my location was great, but I thought it was pretty good. They just went with pitches," he said, noting many of his first-inning pitches were coming across at the top of the knee, instead of the low knee. "That's just a one- or two-inch difference, but one or two inches gives me a groundball out and more broken bats instead of the base hits."

Manager Manny Acta thought Bacsik was off by a wider margin.

"He was missing his location by over a foot almost every time," he said. "He doesn't have that overpowering stuff, and whenever he's not locating and being perfect with all his pitches, he's going to struggle a little bit."

Bacsik settled down and faced just seven batters combined in the fourth and fifth innings.

"The difference was he really kept the ball down," said catcher Brian Schneider. "I told him not to worry about off-speed or anything, stop worrying about in or out as much and just worry about up or down. ... If you keep the ball down you'll create some ground balls."

The Washington offense put 11 hits on the board against Boof Bonser (5-2), who struggled for Minnesota, giving up nine hits and three earned runs in five innings. Young and Ronnie Belliard had three hits apiece, and Ryan Church two, but, unlike the previous two games, the key hits were absent.

The Nationals scored single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings, and had chances for more. Washington tied a season high with 11 men left on base, including runners in scoring position in five of the first seven innings.

"Twice we left guys on second and third and couldn't push them across," Acta said. "They did a great job out of the 'pen because we felt like maybe if [Bonser] would have stayed out there, maybe we had a chance. [Pat] Neshek and [Matt] Guerrier did a good job stopping us."

Washington got just two hits off the Minnesota relievers in three innings.

Young said the inability to drive in runners is just part of the game.

"You've got to take the good with the bad. Sometimes the ball lands in our favor. Unfortunately, we weren't able to capitalize on the chances we had."

Despite the loss, the Nationals head into the latest Battle of the Beltway feeling good.

"We had a good series here, a positive series against a good ballclub," Schneider said. "For us to come here on the road, in Interleague, it's not easy. Now we can go home, take a day off, and do the same with a little more familiar club that we know in Baltimore."

Mike Cook is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.