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Braves capitalize on ninth-inning error to take down Nationals

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- The rain that began before the first pitch and never relented turned RFK Stadium's infield into a messy mix of mud and puddles by the time Cristian Guzman crouched for Raul Mondesi's bases-loaded grounder with two outs in the ninth inning.

The Washington Nationals' shortstop gathered the wet ball without a problem, but his throw skipped past first baseman Nick Johnson and into the visiting dugout, allowing two runs to score and helping the Atlanta Braves rally to win 2-1 Thursday.

"I'll tell you one thing: I'm just glad nobody got hurt out there. It was so bad out there on the field -- tough to run, tough to play defense," Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro said. "You really can't blame anybody for this loss. It was tough to be out there."

Asked whether he thought play should have been stopped, Nationals manager Frank Robinson said: "I have no control over that. I can't tell the umpires to stop the game. It's up to them. They're more inclined to still try to complete those games nowadays than stop them, and I don't know why."

Between innings, workers dumped extra dirt from bags and buckets on the mound, in the batter's boxes and around the infield. Vidro said he hopes groundskeepers will make improvements while the Nationals are out of town the next three days.

RFK hasn't housed a major-league team since the Senators left in 1971, and delays in the deal bringing the Montreal Expos to Washington meant work on preparing the place for baseball didn't get going until January.

Since the Nationals' home opener a week ago, there have been concerns about the softness of the mound, and keeping the field in top shape is made harder because the stadium also is used by Major League Soccer's D.C. United.

Guzman wouldn't speak to reporters. But Robinson called the infield's condition "horrible," and third baseman Vinny Castilla said: "I've never played in an infield like that in the big leagues."

It was the first loss of the season for Washington's bullpen, which entered leading the majors with a 5-0 record. The team also had been 5-0 in games decided by one or two runs.

"It looked like we were going to be snakebit there, but it turned out all right," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I was surprised there weren't more throwing errors early when the game started. You play nine innings and no one threw the ball away -- that's pretty miraculous."

After John Patterson shut down the Braves for seven innings and Hector Carrasco threw a perfect eighth, closer Chad Cordero (2-1) opened the ninth by giving up singles to Marcus Giles and Johnny Estrada on two-strike pitches and a walk to Chipper Jones.

Cordero then struck out Brian Jordan and Adam LaRoche, and it appeared he was out of trouble when Mondesi rolled a 2-0 pitch toward Guzman. But the throwing error by Guzman -- second among AL shortstops last season with a .983 fielding percentage for Minnesota -- left Cordero with his second blown save.

"I was happy getting the ground ball. It was unfortunate that he threw it away. But he's not the one to blame. I'm the one to blame," Cordero said. "I'm the one who loaded the bases."

Chris Reitsma (1-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the victory, and Dan Kolb finished up for his fifth save, with the help of Andruw Jones' diving catch of pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga's liner.

Atlanta's comeback prevented John Smoltz from taking another tough loss and dropping to 0-4 in his return to starting. He allowed five hits in seven innings, including Jose Guillen's RBI single in the fourth.

"It didn't look like we were going to get it done again," said Smoltz, who struck out nine. "I'm just glad we're talking about a win today and not bad luck. "

The Braves have scored just two runs with him in the game. The 1996 NL Cy Young award winner moved back to the rotation after being a closer the past three seasons.

"He's dynamite again. He's had three of the best games I've ever seen him pitch -- ever," Cox said. "We haven't gotten him any runs."

Patterson lowered his ERA to 0.86 by allowing two singles and two walks while striking out five over seven innings. It was the second consecutive start in which he threw seven shutout innings.

"The team's playing well, and that just gives me more confidence," he said.

Rain fell as he warmed up. After the second batter, Giles, grounded a single to left, there was a 2-minute, 40-second delay as workers raked the dirt on the mound, then tamped it down -- all under Patterson's watchful eye.

When play resumed, Patterson struck out Chipper Jones, beginning a stretch in which he retired 16 batters in a row.

"His last three starts, he's been light's out," Castilla said.

Notes

  • Washington went 4-3 in its first homestand.
  • Guillen's RBI ended an 0-for-11 start with runners in scoring position.
  • Andruw Jones, mired in a career-worst 0-for-27 slump, entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Players of the Game
Washington

J. Patterson
IP 7.0
H 2
ER 0
BB 2
K 5
Atlanta

J. Smoltz
IP 7.0
H 5
ER 1
BB 0
K 9
 
Atlanta Braves
Rafael Furcal, SS4010010 .229
Marcus Giles, 2B4120001 .303
Chipper Jones, 3B3100111 .367
Johnny Estrada, C4010011 .217
    Pete Orr, PR0000000 .273
    Danny Kolb, P0000000 .000
Brian Jordan, LF3000113 .211
Adam LaRoche, 1B3000113 .222
Raul Mondesi, RF4000012 .218
Ryan Langerhans, CF4000002 .200
    Eddie Perez, C0000000 .167
John Smoltz, P2000010 .000
   a- Julio Franco, PH1000000 .273
    Chris Reitsma, P0000000 .000
    Andruw Jones, CF0000000 .175
Totals322403713 
a-flied out for Smoltz in the 8th
Atlanta Braves
John Smoltz 7511090 4.30
Chris Reitsma (W,1-0) 1000000 1.13
Danny Kolb (S,5) 1000010 7.71
Pitches-Strikes - John Smoltz 105-71, Chris Reitsma 12-8, Danny Kolb 10-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Smoltz 4-7, Chris Reitsma 1-2, Danny Kolb 1-1
Batters Faced - John Smoltz 25, Chris Reitsma 3, Danny Kolb 3
Washington Nationals
Brad Wilkerson, CF4110020 .323
Cristian Guzman, SS2000010 .140
   a- Carlos Baerga, PH1000000 .111
Jose Vidro, 2B4010011 .322
Jose Guillen, RF4011001 .323
Terrmel Sledge, LF3010011 .294
Vinny Castilla, 3B3000031 .375
Nick Johnson, 1B3010011 .296
Brian Schneider, C3000012 .229
John Patterson, P2000001 .000
    Hector Carrasco, P0000000 .000
   b- Ryan Church, PH1000000 .152
    Chad Cordero, P0000000 .000
Totals301510108 
a-lined out for Guzman in the 9th
b-fouled out for Carrasco in the 8th
Batting
2B - Brad Wilkerson (5, Smoltz)
SH - Cristian Guzman (3)
RBI - Jose Guillen (9)
2-OUT RBI - Jose Guillen (2)
CS - Terrmel Sledge (1, 2nd base by Smoltz/Estrada)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
E - Cristian Guzman (2, Wild throw)
Washington Nationals
John Patterson 7200250 0.86
Hector Carrasco (H,1) 1000000 0.00
Chad Cordero (BS,2; L,2-1) 1220120 0.93
Pitches-Strikes - John Patterson 105-65, Hector Carrasco 8-5, Chad Cordero 26-18
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Patterson 6-10, Hector Carrasco 1-2, Chad Cordero 1-1
Batters Faced - John Patterson 25, Hector Carrasco 3, Chad Cordero 7
Game Information
Attendance - 30728
Game Time - 2:51
Temperature - 70
Umpires - Home - Bill Hohn, First Base - Doug Eddings, Second Base - Bruce Dreckman, Third Base - Gerry Davis