Nationals fall in wet conditions
Simontacchi struggles against Padres on rainy day at RFK
WASHINGTON -- The helmets were wet, raindrops were falling and there was standing water in the infield.
The decision? Play ball.
Nine muddy innings later, the Padres left Washington with a 7-3 victory, a result that wasn't the most important thing to manager Manny Acta.
"I'm glad we got through it without anybody getting hurt," he said. "I did a lot of praying out there."
Nationals pitcher Jason Simontacchi, who suffered a groin injury earlier in the year, said it took him some time to feel totally comfortable on the mound, which received a new coating of dirt from the grounds crew after every inning.
"Physically and mentally, it's miserable," he said. "But it's something you've got to deal with."
The Padres had the upper hand at the start, with catcher Josh Bard delivering a three-run home run in the top of the first.
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman answered emphatically in the third with a home run into section 533 at RFK, the yellow seats that mark the top rows of the upper deck. The home run dropped jaws in the dugout, with the exception of Zimmerman's. He didn't watch the blast; he heard about it from teammates afterward.
Zimmerman almost followed up his tape-measure blast with another, but a long fly ball came up a couple feet short at the warning track -- an all-too-common scenario at oversized RFK Stadium.
"I guess I'm not strong enough to hit it out to center field," Zimmerman joked. "I'll stick to hitting it down the line."
The Padres broke the tie in the fifth inning, then added an insurance run in the seventh to seal the 7-3 victory. It concluded a week in which the Nationals went 1-2 in series against the two teams at the top of the National League West -- San Diego and Los Angeles. Acta credited both teams' pitching. The Padres seemed to deliver a new look with every pitcher they brought out of the bullpen.
Nationals pitchers didn't fare as well, although they had to deal with some key defensive lapses. In the first inning on Sunday, a ground ball to Simontacchi became a hit when nobody went to first base to field the throw.
"That had nothing to do with the weather. That was just a mental error," Acta said. "Somebody had to cover first base, and it cost us. We didn't play good defense, again."
The grounds crew tried to keep the weather from being a factor, but couldn't clean up the infield at the same pace the water was coming down, creating puddles in different spots. In the outfield, left fielder Ryan Church was worked the hardest, successfully fielding all six balls that came his direction.
"It's not easy tracking fly balls when raindrops are going off your face," Church said. "It's just amazing that we got all nine in with all that water."
Both teams will have an off-day on Monday, which would have provided an opportunity to delay the game, but several players said after the game that they were glad that they were able to squeeze the game in without having to wait all day for a cancellation or delayed game.
Still, it was an unusual situation, and Acta was asked whether pitchers or batters have an advantage in the downpour.
"Nobody does," he said.
Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.