Wil­liams Makes Case To Stay in Nats’ Ro­ta­tion

Blown Save, 12-In­ning Loss Spoil Ef­fort

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - By Tarik El-Bashir

Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als Man­ager Manny Acta didn’t mince words when asked about the sig­nif­i­cance of Jerome Wil­liams’s start against the New York Mets last night.

“When you are not an es­tab­lished guy up here and you’re strug­gling, ev­ery start is im­por­tant,” Acta said.

He stopped short of say­ing Wil­liams needed a strong show­ing to re­main in the ro­ta­tion, or even the ma­jors. Wil­liams’s sta­tis­tics, though, might have said it for him: The 25-year-old righthander, who has bat­tled con­trol and con­fi­dence is­sues, lugged an 0-4 record and an un­sightly 7.77 ERA to the mound.

And his prob­lems didn’t fig­ure to ease any in front of a crowd of 29,292 at RFK Sta­dium, where Wil­liams was matched against one of the league’s best line­ups and one of the game’s top pitch­ers, savvy lefty Tom Glavine.

Yet, im­prob­a­bly, Wil­liams was one of the bright spots in the Na­tion­als’ 6-2 loss in 12 in­nings.

But Wil­liams’s mem­o­rable per­for­mance, which likely saved his job — for now at least — went to waste thanks to the in­abil­ity of closer Chad Cordero to do his job. Mets pinch hit­ter Julio Franco blasted an RBI sin­gle in the ninth — the third hit sur­ren­dered by Cordero in the in­ning — to knot the score at 2.

That’s how it re­mained un­til the 12th, when New York cen­ter fielder Car­los Bel­tran smacked a two-run dou­ble off of right-han­der Ryan Wag­ner. Mo­ments later, Mets third base­man David Wright sin­gled home two more

runs. And that was that for the Na­tion­als, whose mod­est twogame win­ning streak came to an end.

Up un­til Cordero’s melt­down, the night had be­longed to Wil­liams. Be­fore leav­ing one bat­ter into the sev­enth in­ning with a mildly sprained left an­kle, which he in­jured swing­ing the bat, Wil­liams had held the Mets score­less on one hit, de­spite throw­ing 45 balls, 40 strikes and is­su­ing five walks.

A thing of beauty it was not. But it did sig­nal progress for Wil­liams.

Al­though it wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear whether the in­jury might cost him any play­ing time, one thing was clear as Wil­liams walked off the mound: Acta and Gen­eral Man­ager Jim Bow­den likely will face a sig­nif­i­cantly more dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion when right-han­der Ja­son Si­mon­tac­chi re­turns from a strained groin mus­cle, which could hap­pen in the next 10 days. Si­mon­tac­chi is ex­pected to make one more start for Class AAA Colum­bus be­fore re­join­ing Wash­ing­ton.

Wil­liams was not sharp early on, walk­ing four bat­ters in the first three in­nings. But he man- aged to es­cape un­scathed thanks to a div­ing putout by Ryan Zim­mer­man to end the sec­ond in­ning. Zim­mer­man made two other sparkling de­fen­sive plays, but he also com­mit­ted a costly er­ror.

Wil­liams, mean­time, set­tled into a groove in the fourth. He re­tired Wright, Moises Alou and Shawn Green in or­der — all on long fly balls.

And with that, Wil­liams took a no-hit­ter into the fifth.

Noth­ing Wil­liams had done up un­til last night sug­gested he was ca­pa­ble of such a per­for­mance. In his pre­vi­ous start, he was roughed up by Florida, sur­ren­der­ing nine earned runs on nine hits in six in­nings in the Na­tion­als’ 12-6 loss. He also gave up three home runs in that game.

Wil­liams’s no-hit bid was bro­ken up in the sixth in­ning by Bel­tran, who smacked a one­out sin­gle to cen­ter field. Car­los Del­gado, how­ever, hit into a dou­ble play to end the in­ning.

In the bot­tom of the sixth, Wil­liams also got it done with his bat. He launched a Glavine fast­ball off the wall in left field. But the pitcher was held to a sin­gle be­cause he was slow to leave the bat­ter’s box, pre­fer­ring in­stead to watch the ball sail deep into the night. It missed clear­ing the out­field fence by about two feet.

De­spite his base run­ning blun­der, the Na­tion­als man­aged to take a 1-0 lead. The next bat­ter, short­stop Felipe Lopez, reached on a con­tro­ver­sial fielder’s choice. Mets Man­ager Wil­lie Ran­dolph was ejected for ar­gu­ing the call with first base um­pire Tony Ran­dazzo. Three pitches later, sec­ond base­man Ron­nie Bel­liard dou­bled home Lopez with the game’s first run.

Af­ter Wright walked to lead off the sev­enth in­ning, Wil­liams was re­placed by Je­sus Colome, who promptly gave up a run. Colome got Alou to ground into a dou­ble play, but Green sin­gled and even­tu­ally reached third on an er­ror by Zim­mer­man. Green then scored on a wild pitch, ty­ing the game at 1.

Bel­liard’s sec­ond dou­ble of the night, off Aaron Heil­man in the eighth, scored Je­sus Flores from third base and put the Na­tion­als ahead 2-1.

Note: Mets sec­ond base­man Jose Valentin left the game af­ter the fourth in­ning with dis­com­fort in his right knee. He was re­placed by Damion Easley.

BY LINDA SPILLERS — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jerome Wil­liams al­lowed one hit and no runs in six-plus in­nings. He en­tered the game 0-4 with a 7.77 ERA.

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