WASHINGTON (AP)—There was water where dirt should be all across the infield. Cliff Floyd slipped on his way out of the batter’s box. Vinny Castilla lobbed a throw to first base for the final out because he couldn’t grip the ball properly.
As well as Tomo Ohka pitched on short notice, allowing two hits in six shutout innings, here’s all anyone needs to know about the Washington Nationals’ 5-3 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday night, which was called before the bottom of the eighth because of rain:
Both managers protested the game.
“The conditions were deplorable. I couldn’t see anything. I caught a popup and I still don’t know if I caught it,” Mets catcher Mike Piazza said. “You needed a canoe to get on the field. I’d be surprised if they can get it ready for tomorrow.”
Nationals manager Frank Robinson was ejected a few minutes before play was stopped. He said he cursed while arguing with the umpires about why the game wasn’t halted and why more dirt wasn’t put on the water-logged infield.
“Our job is to get the game in,” crew chief Joe West said. “Our job ain’t to make Frank happy.”
Robinson certainly wasn’t—nor were many people in either clubhouse at RFK Stadium, which has had field problems in its first month of hosting major league baseball since 1971.
“It was definitely putting every player on field in jeopardy of getting hurt,” said Floyd, whose three-run double in the eighth off reliever Gary Majewski extended his hitting streak to 16 games. “The outfield was horrible. You slip out there and hurt yourself, there’s nothing else to say: You’re on the 15-day disabled list.”
Pitchers have complained about the mound, which is being rebuilt next week. There have been complications with the Nationals’ sharing the field with Major League Soccer club D.C. United. The Nationals lost 2-1 to Atlanta on April 21 when Christian Guzman made a throwing error in the ninth on a similarly muddy infield after hours of rain.
Washington’s Jose Vidro thought the conditions were worse Saturday.
“That was ridiculous. … A lot of us could have been hurt. People in our front office, they should think about—next time they know the rain is coming — calling off the game,” the second baseman said. “The draining is not the same as other fields, because this field is very old. This is something they need to work on.”
Said Mets manager Willie Randolph: “I’ve been in baseball a lot of years and I’ve never seen anything quite like that.”
Showers fell steadily from the fifth inning on—there was a 30-minute delay during the sixth—and the infield was filled with puddles by the eighth.
By then, Ohka’s day was done. A late replacement for an ailing Zach Day (inner-ear infection), Ohka improved to 2-3 and lowered his ERA from 5.85 to 4.50, leaving after 89 pitches. He retired 12 of his first 13 batters, and finished with three strikeouts and only one walk. That free pass was part of his lone troublesome inning, the fifth.
“He’s back to powering the ball,” pitching coach Randy St. Claire said, adding that Ohka’s velocity was back to around 90 mph on his four-seam fastball, up from 85 in his last outing, on April 23, when he lasted just three innings against the Mets.
The Mets’ fourth straight loss allowed the Nationals to finish their first month in Washington with a 13-11 record. Last year, as the Montreal Expos, the club went 5-20 in April en route to finishing 67-95.
Vinny Castilla put Washington ahead 2-0 in the first inning with a two-run double off Victor Zambrano (1-3). The Mets starter handed Nick Johnson a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded in the fourth to make it 3-0.
After Floyd closed the gap, Robinson went out to pull Majewski, wound up arguing with the umpires—and the ejection drew boos from some who remained from an announced crowd of 40,913, the Nationals’ largest since their home opener.
Hector Carrasco came on and earned his first major league save since July 19, 2003, by getting Piazza to ground out to Castilla to end the top of the eighth. When Mets reliever Mike DeJean tried to warm up for the bottom of the eighth, West sent the players off. During that second rain delay, which lasted 37 minutes, the grounds crew had trouble getting the white tarp across the entire infield, repeatedly getting stuck near third base. With more than 30 people tugging, it took several stops and starts and about half an hour for them to cover all the dirt.
“What you hear (from umpires) now is, ‘You’ve got to get the game in,”’ Robinson said. “That’s well and fine, but you’ve got to use commons sense.”
Zambrano allowed four hits, three walks and three runs in four innings. … Jose Guillen was twice hit by pitches by Zambrano, meaning the Nationals’ outfielder was plunked three times in two nights by New York pitchers.