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Nationals unable to hold lead

Nationals unable to hold lead

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals went through a bizarre ninth inning in their 4-3 loss to the Indians on Saturday night at RFK Stadium.

Going into the top of the inning, the Nationals had a 3-1 lead, and it seemed like a lock that they would win the game. It was time for right-hander Chad Cordero to close it out. But by the time he got the first out of the inning, the damage had already been done.

After consecutive singles by Franklin Gutierrez and Casey Blake, Victor Martinez smashed Cordero's first pitch over the center-field wall for a three-run homer. It took all of seven pitches for the Indians to take the lead.

"I was trying to get ahead of [Martinez], that's all it was," Cordero said to a pool reporter. "I was trying to get it down, and unfortunately I wasn't able to get it down far enough and far enough out, and so whenever you make a mistake, especially when it's a cleanup hitter, chances are they're going to make you pay, and that's what happened."

Catcher Brian Schneider pointed out that when Cordero gets hit hard, it is because he is using his offspeed pitches too much. But on Saturday, Cordero used his best pitch, the fastball.

After the game, Schneider went into the video room to dissect what had happened in the top of that inning.

"The pitches they hit were pretty good pitches, especially the home run. It was a couple of inches off the plate, down at the knees. He went out and got that ball," Schneider said. "When Chad gets in trouble, he is not throwing strikes -- walking guys and falling behind. The Indians jumped on him early. You can't critique it and say, 'If you had another inch or two.' You can't do it like that."

But Cordero's problems in the top of the ninth inning were overshadowed by what happened in the bottom of the inning.

The Nationals tried to put together a comeback against Tribe closer Joe Borowski. Schneider led off with a single. Brandon Watson, who already had two hits in the game, came to the plate and manager Manny Acta asked him to sacrifice Schneider over to second.

But Watson popped the ball to catcher Kelly Shoppach for the first out of the inning. Watson said he had the perfect pitch to lay one down.

"I just didn't get it done. You have to execute," Watson said. "[Bunting] is part of my game. It hurts."

Nook Logan then came to the plate and doubled to left-center field to put runners on second and third with one out. The Indians decided to walk Cristian Guzman intentionally to load the bases and take their chances with Felipe Lopez, a .236 hitter. It turned out to be a good move, as Lopez hit a ground ball to Borowski, who threw to Shoppach for the force at the plate.

A second later, while Shoppach was standing at the plate, the Indians told him to throw to third base, since Logan was too far off the bag. Shoppach was able to throw Logan out to end the game and take the bat out of Ryan Zimmerman's hands. Zimmerman was due to be the next hitter. Zimmerman hit a game-winning home run off Borowski on July 4, when the veteran reliever was with the Marlins.

Why was Logan so far off the bag? He thought Shoppach was going to try and get Lopez at first base and was going to try to score once Shoppach threw the ball. However, Shoppach never made an attempt to throw to Martinez at first base.

"I was anticipating [Shoppach] throwing to first," Logan said. "I have been playing against that guy forever, running the bases. That's the way I thought it out. I played it out in my head before."

Shoppach said he had a hunch Logan might try to come home.

"If I throw that ball to first, we might not get it back by the time he gets home," Shoppach said.

Unlike the fiery Frank Robinson before him, Acta declined to show his emotions after the heartbreaking loss.

"[Cordero] is just human. ... In the bottom of the inning, it was just one of those bizarre plays in baseball," Acta said. "The play was in front of Logan. He doesn't need any help. Every step of the play is in front of him. He was just a little overaggressive and got too far away. I'll live with it."

Earlier in the game, left-hander Matt Chico made up for his poor start on Monday. He pitched six innings and gave up one run on four hits. He struck out three and walked three.

"He was able to throw strike one consistently, and mixed his pitches from then on," Acta said.

The Nationals helped give Chico a lead in the sixth inning. With the score tied at 1 and Paul Byrd on the mound, Dmitri Young singled to right field to drive in Lopez from second base and give Washington the one-run lead.

The Nationals added to their lead in the seventh inning, when Watson scored on a wild pitch by reliever Rafael Perez.

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

{"content":["interleague_play" ] }
{"content":["interleague_play" ] }