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06/16/09 11:59 PM ET

Lead slips away as Nats fall to Yanks

Martis gets no-decision after bullpen lets hosts come back

NEW YORK -- The Yankees rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the Nationals to a 5-3 defeat at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Nationals were leading, 3-2, until left-hander Ron Villone went to the mound. His goal was to get ground-ball outs, but he left the ball up. The first batter he faced was the left-handed-hitting Johnny Damon. The lefty-lefty matchup didn't work out for Villone, as Damon laced a single to right field.

"He hit it decently hard in the hole -- it's something you don't want to do with the first guy, no matter what," Villone said.

Mark Teixeira was the next hitter, and he hit a hard shot to deep left-center field. It looked like center fielder Elijah Dukes had a beat on the ball. But the ball hit the fence for a double, scoring Damon and tying the score at 3.

Two batters later, Robinson Cano doubled over the head of Dukes to give New York the lead, though Cano was called out at third trying to stretch the double into a triple.

On the balls hit by Teixeira and Cano, Dukes should have caught have caught both of them. But manager Manny Acta understood why Dukes couldn't make the plays.

"In his defense, he is not a natural center fielder," Acta said. "Those balls were hit pretty good. Would I want him to catch every one of them? Yes, but he did make an effort."

Villone placed blame on no one but himself. He felt he should have kept his pitches down.

"I left the ball up and I left another one a little bit up and they hit it hard enough," Villone said. "They were hit too hard. No matter what, they shouldn't be hit that hard. I didn't do my job. I was trying to get ground balls. I blame myself, not anyone else."

The loss spoiled a nice outing from right-hander Shairon Martis, who picked up his sixth quality start of the season. He lasted six innings, gave up two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and walked five batters.

Martis acknowledged that he walked those many batters because he was trying to pitch around the great hitters such as Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada.

With a small ballpark like Yankee Stadium, Martis did not want to give up the long ball.

Martis found himself behind, 2-0, by the third inning. With the bases loaded and one out in the second inning, Melky Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to left fielder Adam Dunn, which allowed Cano to score.

With runners on first and third an inning later, Cano hit a lined shot right at first baseman Nick Johnson, who didn't see the ball until it hit his wrist and scooted into short-right field to send Damon home.

"I didn't see it until it was two feet from me," Johnson said.

After that, Martis retired 11 out of the next 14 hitters he faced. Villone was impressed how Martis kept Washington in the game.

"He put our hitters in the position to where they were going to get [CC Sabathia] sooner or later," Villone said. "[Martis] showed poise out there, beyond his years, I think. ... He faced a pretty good lineup and he made them work."

Sabathia was cruising for the Yankees until the fifth inning, when Anderson Hernandez hit a slider over the left-field wall for a three-run homer and give Washington a 3-2 lead.

"I didn't think I hit a home run right away. I saw Damon hit the wall and the ball came back," Hernandez said.

But Washington would squander the lead and give Martis his seventh no-decision. In fact, since May 9, Nationals starters have picked up two victories, both going to left-hander John Lannan.

Martis was not upset that he didn't pick up the victory.

"You have to go with the flow," he said.

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