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07/29/07 7:11 PM ET

Nationals fall in shortened finale

Pitchers allow 10 hits and five runs through 4 1/3 innings

NEW YORK -- Left-hander Billy Traber had a tough time getting hitters out and it ended up hurting the Nationals, who lost to the Mets, 5-0, in a rain-shortened game at Shea Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

It rained during most of the game, but the tarp wasn't put on the field until 2:41 p.m. ET. New York was batting with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and had a runner on first with Ramon Castro at the plate when the game was halted. The game was not called until 4 p.m. ET.

Nationals manager Manny Acta said he understood why the game did not continue. The weather was not going to get any better.

"It's not a good scenario out there," Acta said. "The weather was not going to get better in the next three hours or so. The umpires did the best that they could. They said it would be raining as hard as it is right now for the next two hours and then after that, who knows. It's too bad, but it's tough to wait it out on a day like this."

Acta and outfielder Ryan Church said the conditions on the field were not bad. Acta praised the umpires and the Shea Stadium grounds crew for being on top of things between innings.

"The grounds crew did what they had to do. It's just too bad the rain did not allow us to continue the game," Acta said. "I can't complain whatsoever. The umpires did a good job during the situation."

Church said there was steady rain, but it wasn't enough to stop the game earlier.

"It was just mist and sprinkling out there," Church said. "It was only a matter of time until they brought the tarp on. I just didn't think it would happen with one out in the fifth."

If there was any consolation, the Nationals were able to split the four-game series against New York, the top team in the National League. They ended up going 3-4 on the road trip. They lost two out of three games against the Phillies.

"That's what you want to do on the road," Acta said, referring to the split against New York. "I don't like to live in the past, but it would have been nice if we would have won it in Philly. You hope for the split on the road, especially [against] like a ballclub against the Mets. It was good work by the guys."

The rain did not stop the Mets from doing damage against Traber. In the first inning, Lastings Milledge singled to left field to drive in Jose Reyes and give New York a 1-0 lead.

After they took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, the Mets put the game away in the fourth inning by scoring three runs. Ramon Castro highlighted the scoring with a two-run homer.

"I just wasn't very sharp. I keep getting behind in the count," Traber said. "That's a team you can't get behind. They are going to hurt you and they did."

Traber has likely made his last start of the season. Acta believes Traber's best role is as a situational lefty out of the bullpen. Besides, with Traber out of the rotation, it means that right-hander Joel Hanrahan, who made his Major League debut on Saturday, will get another start against the Cardinals. This past week, the Nationals needed six starters because of the day-night doubleheader against the Mets.

Traber will get two days off and then work out of the bullpen against Reds on Wednesday night.

"We appreciate what he has done," Acta said of Traber. "But you guys know how I feel about him: He's better suited to pitch out the 'pen as a left-handed specialist. I just think when he starts, once the hitters give him one look, [it gets tough the second and third time around]."

Asked if he would find better success as a reliever, Traber said, "I will do what ever they tell me. It's not really about want, it's about what they need. I don't care either way, as long as they want me."

Washington had a lot of problems solving right-hander John Maine, who pitched five innings of one-hit ball. The only hit came from Ronnie Belliard in the first inning.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.