WASHINGTON -- Philadelphia Phillies righthander 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, and the Phillies went on to lose, 11-0, to the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Saturday night.
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 it finally came to a head. Manager Ryne Sandberg apparently agreed with Burnett and was also ejected.
"I asked him twice in the first and second (innings) if it was out or down, and he said it was out and down," Burnett said. "When I threw purposely out, I said the same thing, but said it more in a statement than a question, and that was it, a pretty quick trigger."
Guccione explained the conversation from his point of view.
"The first pitch to Werth, off the plate, and he pointed and he said: 'Now that's (expletive) outside,' " Guccione said. "And he yelled at me. With that, he was ejected."
"I thought both guys were in the wrong," Sandberg said. "A.J. can't get tossed in his part, and the umpire was a little early in the ejection."
During a brief, laboring stint in which Burnett never appeared to be comfortable, he threw 51 pitches, 25 for strikes.
In 12/3 innings, Burnett allowed five runs (only one earned) on three hits. He 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 led off 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 runs in the second inning on just one hit. Bryce Harper drew a walk to lead off. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a slow roller near the second-base bag that was booted by Chase Utley for an error.
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.
Zimmermann limited the Phillies to five hits in seven innings, striking out eight.
After Burnett's ejection, Phillippe Aumont took the mound and he didn't enjoy much success, either. He lasted just two innings, allowing six earned runs on eight hits, as his ERA ballooned to 19.06.
"It was the first time I was ever tossed," Burnett said. "That sucks, because you go to the bullpen the way you do, and guys had to come from the bullpen and weren't ready."
The ejection really hurt the bullpen; it was the second time in three games the relievers were heavily taxed. Cliff Lee lasted just 22/3 innings Thursday before suffering a reoccurrence of his left-elbow strain. The Phillies (49-62) used six relievers in that 10-4 victory.
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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