WASHINGTON -- Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett has encountered his share of trouble in the first two innings of games this season, but this time there was a twist. His slow start was followed by a quick exit.
One pitch after allowing a three-run home run to Anthony Rendon, Burnett was tossed during Saturday's 11-0 loss to the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.
After throwing a first-pitch ball to Jayson Werth, Burnett exchanged pleasantries with home plate umpire Chris Guccione. Burnett had not been happy with Guccione's strike zone and finally erupted. Manager Ryne Sandberg apparently agreed with Burnett and was also ejected.
During a brief, laboring stint, in which Burnett never seemed to be comfortable, he threw 51 pitches, 25 for strikes.
In 1 2/3 innings, Burnett allowed five runs (only one earned) on three hits. He also walked two and struck out one.
After losing the first two games, the Nationals took their first lead in the series with a first-inning run. Denard Span opened the game with a single, stole his 21st base, and scored on Rendon's single to right.
Burnett escaped further damage and now has a 6.00 ERA in the first inning this season.
Washington then scored four unearned, second-inning runs on just one hit. Bryce Harper drew a walk to open the inning. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a slow roller near the second-base bag that was booted by Chase Utley.
After striking out Wilson Ramos, Burnett walked pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to load the bases. Span followed with a sacrifice fly that was caught by a diving Grady Sizemore in left. Rendon then hit a three-run homer to center, his 14th of the year.
Rendon, the Nationals' first-round draft choice (sixth overall) in 2011, is now 5-for-12 with seven RBIs in his career against Burnett. In this game, Rendon finished a triple short of the cycle.
Winning pitcher Jordan Zimmermann limited the Phillies to five hits in seven innings while striking out eight.
After the ejection, Phillippe Aumont replaced Burnett, and he didn't enjoy much success, either. Aumont lasted just two innings, allowing six earned runs on eight hits.
The Phillies (49-62) can take solace that Washington isn't likely to duplicate this offensive output on Sunday with Cole Hamels on the mound. In his last 12 starts, Hamels has a 1.58 ERA while holding opponents to a .588 OPS.
The Burnett ejection really hurt the bullpen; it was the second time in three games the relievers were heavily taxed. Cliff Lee lasted 2 2/3 innings in Thursday's 10-4 win before suffering a reoccurrence of his left elbow strain. Six relievers were used in that game.
This was such a strange game that first baseman-outfielder Darin Ruf was inserted at third base in the eighth inning after pinch-hitting in the top of the inning. It was Ruf's first major-league appearance at third base. He played three games there for Clearwater in 2011. Ruf cleanly fielded the one grounder hit to him.
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