Nats again make Mets nervous, but fall

Nats again make Mets nervous, but fall

WASHINGTON -- During Spring Training, Nationals manager Manny Acta said one of his goals was to develop at least two pitchers for the 2007 season. One of those pitchers turned out to be left-hander Matt Chico.

Chico had never played above Double-A, and Acta warned that the left-hander would have his lumps during his rookie year. Chico did, indeed, have those lumps. Sometimes, he had problems throwing strikes. It got so bad that he was sent down to Triple-A Columbus for two starts in August before being called up in early September.

For the season, Chico is 5-9 with a 4.74 ERA. You will not hear any complaints from Acta.

"I was preparing myself for [Chico] to have one bad start every three outings," Acta said. "This guy hasn't been beaten consistently. He put in a good stretch for us earlier in the year before he went out to Triple-A. Since he has been back, he has given us a chance every time out there. I think it's good."

Asked what he thought of his season, Chico said, "It has been a learning experience. I feel like I've learned a lot. It has been fun. I hope I get to start in the rotation next year."

On Wednesday night, Chico was on the mound against the Mets and didn't have a good outing. At the same time, the Nationals gave the Mets another battle, but unlike the previous two nights, they came up a little short as they lost, 8-4, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

Chico lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits. The Nationals gave him a 2-1 lead after two innings against Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey, but Chico couldn't hold onto the lead.

In the top of the third, the Mets tied the score when David Wright singled to right field to drive in Jose Reyes and tie the score at 2. It was Wright's 100th RBI of the season.

New York then took a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning. Luis Castillo tripled home Reyes, and Castillo came home on a sacrifice fly by Wright.

Chico was taken out of the game in the sixth inning after Moises Alou doubled and then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jeff Conine. With Jonathan Albaladejo on the mound, Alou ended up scoring on a sacrifice fly by Paul Lo Duca.

Chico had problems keeping his breaking pitches down on Wednesday, but if there was a bright spot in this game, it was that Chico walked only one batter. Since his return, Chico has walked four batters in 24 1/3 innings.

"It was a rough [outing]," Chico said. "I'm making progress. I'm not walking [hardly] anybody. That has been my goal since I came back up. I made some mistakes and the Mets capitalized on them."

The closest the Nationals came to tying the score after Chico left was in the bottom of the fifth, when they cut the Mets' lead to 4-3 when Felipe Lopez scored on a fielder's choice.

In the bottom of the sixth, with the Mets leading 5-3, the Nationals had runners on first and third and no outs. Mets manager Willie Randolph took Pelfrey out of the game in favor of right-hander Jorge Sosa, who managed to get New York out of trouble.

D'Angelo Jimenez came in to pinch-hit for Albaladejo and struck out looking. Nook Logan followed and hit the first pitch to Reyes for a double play.

"I think Sosa won the game for them," Acta said. "I think he came in and did a tremendous job getting out of that jam. [He entered with runners on] first and third and no outs. He threw four or five pitches and got out of it."

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