Washington Loses Big To Baltimore...Patience For Patterson, Please?

John Patterson starts for the Washington Nationals, who take on the Baltimore Orioles and their own towering right-hander Daniel Cabrera, live from the Orioles' Spring home of Fort Lauderdale Stadium in the ninety-degree heat of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

The Nationals' starting lineup...

Felipe Lopez SS
Ronnie Belliard 2B
Lastings Milledge CF
Nick Johnson 1B
Alex Escobar DH
Justin Maxwell RF
Willie Harris 3B
Humberto Cota C
Garrett Guzman LF

Felipe Lopez lines the second offering from Cabrera back up the middle for a leadoff single, but Ronnie Belliard erases the runner with a tailor-made DP to Orioles' shortstop Brandon Fahey, who tosses to second, Brian Roberts to first, two down. Lastings Milledge swings through a fastball and the Orioles' starter has one scoreless. In the home half of the first, John Patterson blows a high 2-2 fastball by Brian Roberts to start the frame. Melving Mora grounds out to third. Nick Markakis is baffled by a 1-2 curve that's called a ball inside, then Patterson follows with a fastball in the same spot that Markakis lines out to second to end the first.

Nick Johnson chases a high-outside fastball from Cabrera for strike three to start the second. Alex Escobar tries to check his swing on an 0-2 pitch low in the zone, but the first base ump says it's a swinging strike, and Cabrera's quickly got two down. Justin Maxwell takes a 1-2 fastball on the outside edge as Cabrera strikes out the side. Patterson matches Cabrera's 1-2-3, breaking a 3-2 curve over the top on Luke Scott that leaves the Orioles' outfielder shrugging his shoulders.

Willie Harris grounds out to first. (Are Nationals' fans getting the full story on Zimmerman?) Humberto Cota grounds out for Cabrera's seventh straight out. Garrett Guzman flies out uber-prospect Adam Jones who closes the glove on the final out of the Nationals' third. O's catcher Ramon Hernandez doubles for the first hit of the day off John Patterson. Adam Jones, the centerpiece of the package Baltimore got from Seattle for Erik Bedard, reaches out and hits an 0-2 curve to Milledge in center for out number two. Brandon Fahey drops a sliced single in left, Hernandez rounds third, Garrett Guzman comes up throwing, the throw gets by Cota at the plate, Hernandez is safe, 1-0 Orioles. Fahey moves to third on a groundout, and Melvin Mora singles to left to score him, 2-0 Baltimore. Nick Markakis doubles off the wall in right, Mora scores. 3-0 O's. Kevin Mill-ah grounds a slow single up the middle of the infield, Markakis scores when no one comes up with it. 4-0 after three.

Daniel Cabrera retires the Nationals in order in the fourth. Ramon Hernandez gets his second hit of the afternoon, a one-out single off Patterson. Adam Jones hits a fly ball to center that gets caught up in the wind, and Lastings Milledge loses it, allowing Jones to take second, and moving Hernandez to third. Brandon Fahey flies out to center, and it's not deep enough for Hernandez to test Milledge's arm. Brian Roberts reaches down and lifts a curve ball to right that Justin Maxwell won't reach, two runs score 6-0 O's after four...

With Nick Johnson at first after a leadoff single, Cabrera gets a DP grounder from Alex Escobar, Johnson slides hard in to second with no ill-effects, two down in the top of the fifth. Cabrera strikes out Justin Maxwell and he's got 5 K's through five scoreless. Patterson's replaced by Arnie Munoz. Patterson's line...4.0 IP, 8 hits, 6 runs, 0 BB, 2 K's, and a 7.00 ERA to end the day.

Daniel Cabrera (2-0) would go on to complete 5.1 IP for the win, giving up 2 ER, 1 walk, and 1 HR (to Garrett Guzman) while striking out 5 and finishing with a 3.46 ERA. John Patterson was replaced on the hill by Nationals' lefty Arnie Munoz, who gave up 2 runs on 3 hits, Chris Schroder, who pitched a scoreless inning, Charlie Manning, who gave up 2 walks and 3 runs in one inning, and Jesus "Everyday" Colome, who issued a walk and gave up two hits but didn't surrender a run.

11 runs and 16 hits for the Orioles, who beat the Nationals 11-3, dropping Washington's record this Spring to 8-11-2. Felipe Lopez was 2 for 3, Ronnie Belliard 1 for 3, and now hitting .471 this Spring, Lastings Milledge went 0 for 3 with 2 K's, Nick Johnson 1 for 3 and 2 K's of his own, and Pete Orr was 1 for 2 with a double...

But the story of the day was John Patterson, who is now (0-2) with a 7.00 ERA on the Spring as he works himself and his right arm back into Major League-shape. In 3 starts and 9.0 IP, Patterson allowed 13 hits, 7 ER, and 1 HR, but he hasn't walked anyone, while he's struck out 7 batters, leading Washington Post baseball writer Barry Svrluga to observe in today's post entitled, "Patterson: I felt tight", on Mr. Svrluga's "Nationals Journal", at washingtonpost.com, that:

"...Patterson is trying to pitch a bit differently this year. Last year, it was almost like he didn't believe he didn't have the velocity back, and he was almost defiant about it in the way he pitched. This year, he seems more willing to pitch differently, to throw more breaking balls if need be, almost pitching backwards. Not sure how it'll work out, but it'll be interesting to watch."

...Which would account for all the full-count-curves Patterson's been throwing. In the same post, Mr. Svrluga quotes Patterson himself, who says of his struggles recovering:

"'There's only one way to get out of it and that is to throw and to pitch. I'm not upset about today. I have my head up and I understand there's going to be days like this. You just have to keep looking forward, looking for the end and keep working.'"

Exactly how far away that "end" is, however, not even Patterson himself seems able to predict. The Nationals, already starved for pitching have no real choice but to remain positive and hope for the best from their de facto ace...as Manny Acta tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article after the game entitled, "Patterson trying to regain form":

"'As long as John shows up to the ballpark and says he is fine with no pain, that's all I care about,' Acta said. 'If he's healthy, that's our main goal here.'"

That is...presumably...just the "main goal" for the Spring...Right? After that, Patterson getting toward that 15 win mark will hopefully take precedence...Patience for Patterson, Please.

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