WASHINGTON -- Angered by a strikeout and an ejection, Washington Nationals outfielder Marlon Byrd began running toward the umpire responsible for both calls. Another umpire, Joe Brinkman, stepped in the way and put out an arm, and Byrd knocked him to the ground.
Brinkman was left with a red scrape on his forehead and a bump on his arm, and the ugly moment marred what otherwise should have been a very satisfying evening for the Nationals, who beat the Florida Marlins 7-3 Tuesday.
"I thought I could get in front of him. He was running pretty hard," Brinkman said. "Once I couldn't get in front of him, I put my arm out. He hit my arm and just spun me around and flipped me and I ended up on the ground. That's all that happened."
Asked if he thought it was intentional, Brinkman said: "I really don't know. He was just running, and I was just thinking I could get in front of him, so I don't know what the intent was."
Several Nationals players and manager Frank Robinson ran over toward Miller, and eventually Byrd walked off the field.
"I was looking away, talking to somebody, when I looked around, and Brinkman was on the ground for a 10-count. Then I saw Marlon and thought, 'Oh, no,"' Robinson said. "So I can't be a witness for the defense."
Byrd was called out on strikes to end the sixth, checking his swing on a full count. Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca appealed to first-base umpire Miller, who ruled Byrd went around. Byrd, thinking he had drawn a walk, was about halfway to first when he realized Miller had called him out. Byrd began arguing with Miller, and Nationals first-base coach Don Buford stepped between them.
As the Nationals took the field for the top of the seventh, Byrd continued arguing on his way to left, and Miller ejected him.
Byrd -- an all-state high school football player in Georgia -- then headed toward Miller, and second-base umpire Brinkman tried to intervene. The 61-year-old Brinkman was attended to by a Washington trainer on the field, and team doctor Bruce Thomas examined him after the game.
"I'm going to talk about the win, and that's it," Byrd said. Asked why he wouldn't talk about what happened, Byrd responded: "Didn't you hear me? I am only going to talk about the win."
Putting that run-in aside, it was a victory for the Nationals to savor, a rare big-margin triumph built on more runs than usual and terrific bullpen work from unexpected sources. The offensive highlights were Vinny Castilla's three-run double, Nick Johnson's two RBI singles, and slumping Cristian Guzman's two hits and an RBI.
The Nationals have won six of seven games -- but this was the first victory in that stretch by more than two runs.
Sun-woo Kim (1-0), in just his second appearance of the season, came in for struggling starter Tomo Ohka with two on and one out in the fourth inning of a 3-3 ballgame and shut down Florida.
Kim allowed three hits and a walk over 3 1/3 innings. He was followed by C.J. Nitkowski, who went 1 1/3 hitless innings. Gary Majewski got the final three outs.
"What I take away from that win is Sunny Kim coming in and holding them down for us," said Jamey Carroll, who was 2-for-4 with three runs scored, including one after a head's-up play, going from second to third on a flyout. He eventually came around on one of Johnson's hits for the go-ahead run in the fifth.
"You take any kind of win you can get, but when you have a little cushion and get those runs at the end, it makes you sleep a little bit better," Carroll said.
Washington tacked on one run in the seventh and two in the eighth off relievers. They scored three off Marlins starter Al Leiter (2-6) in the first on Castilla's big hit after Leiter plunked two batters.
Leiter gave up four runs on six hits and three walks over five innings. In his last six starts, the veteran left-hander is 1-4 with a 7.90 ERA.
"I'd say that you get an ERA like that, you're putting too many runners on," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.
His club has lost nine of 11 games, dropping to third place in the NL East behind Atlanta and Washington. Florida left 14 runners on base.
"This is a good ballclub, and we can't just keep going every night, getting so many opportunities and not cashing in," McKeon said. "I feel that we've got to dig down, look in the mirror and say, 'Hey, we've got to do something about it."'
Ohka allowed one run in each of the first three innings, on Miguel Cabrera's RBI double in the first, Juan Pierre's RBI double in the second and Juan Encarnacion's eighth homer of the season leading off the third.
When Ohka gave up a single and a walk in the fourth, Robinson came out to make a change. Ohka kept his back to the dugout and clutched the ball as Robinson made the slow walk to the mound. It appeared as though Robinson had to grab the ball from the right-hander -- an awkward exchange similar to one between the manager and starter Zach Day last month.
- Washington's bullpen has 13 wins, second in the majors to San Diego's 15.
- Atlanta leads Washington by half a game, and Florida by one game.