WASHINGTON -- A few hours before making his Major League debut against the Giants on Sunday afternoon, Nationals right-hander Garret Mock ran into general manager Jim Bowden in the clubhouse. The GM was straight with Mock. Bowden informed the rookie that he was going to be optioned to Triple-A Columbus after the game and the team would recall right-hander Tyler Clippard, who will start Monday's game against San Francisco. Bowden told Mock the only way he was going to stay in the big leagues after the game was if he threw a perfect game, had a sac bunt and hit a home run off starter Barry Zito.
The news Bowden gave Mock took all the pressure away. Mock didn't see this outing as an audition. He knew he was replacing left-hander Odalis Perez for one start. Perez missed his turn because of left shoulder tendinitis. "[The team] saw me in Spring Training, they saw me [during the exhibition game against the Orioles in Washington]," Mock said. "As far as the decision makers with the Nationals, they have an idea of what I can and can't do. The point of the Minor Leagues is to service the Major Leagues. ... You just come out here and help the team win." Mock didn't throw a no-hitter, get a sac bunt down or hit a home run off Zito. In fact, it was a debut Mock would like to forget. He didn't get past the fifth inning as the Nationals lost to the Giants, 6-3, at Nationals Park. The Nationals were able to get to Zito early. They had a 3-0 lead by the fourth inning. Lastings Milledge highlighted the scoring by hitting a solo home run in the first inning. But the Nationals collected two hits the rest of the way after the fourth. Mock couldn't hold the lead. Things unraveled in the fifth inning as he walked three batters, one of which forced in a run. It didn't help that he was hampered by the heat. The game-time temperature was 94 degrees. Mock was taken out of the game in favor of Saul Rivera, who didn't fare any better. Randy Winn drove in two more runs with a single. Aaron Rowand was the next hitter and he hit a smash that bounced off the infield dirt and hit the head of shortstop Cristian Guzman. Fred Lewis ended up scoring on the play. "Guzman is fine," manager Manny Acta said. "Not even the ball is bouncing our way right now. That would have been a double-play ball and out of the inning for Saul." All four runs were charged to Mock, who blamed himself for the loss. It almost didn't seem to matter that he was making his big league debut. "It was pretty hot, but I played in that type of heat before," Mock said. "I don't think it was the heat as much as it was walking a couple of guys and leaving the bullpen to clean up my mess. When it's as hot as it is, it's going to affect everybody. "If the team gives you a three-run lead, you don't go out and walk a couple of guys in the fifth inning. I could have gotten out of the fifth inning without walking those guys and maybe got a ground-ball double play or something." The Giants added two more runs in the seventh inning as John Bowker hit a homer off Joel Hanrahan. Despite the loss, Mock was grateful to be in the big leagues -- even for a day. "Being able to come up here and be just part of the team for a day ... it was great to see how certain players go about their business, see how the pitching staff works," Mock said. "It was a good experience to see how everything works." The Nationals have now lost seven of their last eight games and are 25-39. They are just one-half game above the Rockies for the worst record in the National League. Acta refuses to believe that the Nationals have hit rock bottom. "We have way too many games left to hit rock bottom. We are not hitting and we know that. We show up tomorrow and be ready to snap out of it. We will," Acta said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.