Black clouds began to roll in over Nationals Park at nearly the precise moment that Heath Bell picked up a ball and began warming up in the Marlins’ bullpen.
The Marlins led the Nationals by a run and manager Ozzie Guillen was entrusting Bell with a ninth-inning save situation for the first time since way back on July 8 — for the first time, in other words, since Bell lost the job.
Bell’s big moment would have to wait.
A sudden downpour caused a 153-minute rain delay. But when it finally came, the result was much like so many before it.
Bell gave up a leadoff home run to Jayson Werth in the bottom of the ninth that tied the score, and the Nationals won it in the 10th, 7-6.
“It’s been my year,” Bell said following what was his seventh blown save. “I don’t have any luck this year, plain and simple.”
Said a clearly exasperated Guillen: “It’s frustrating and embarrassing and tiring, losing games day in and day out, the way we lose games. What I see is the same (expletive) I see all year long — blown games.”
The Marlins, who squandered a 6-2 lead on Friday but eventually won in extra innings, coughed up a 6-3 lead on Saturday to the Nationals, who rallied for a pair of runs in the eighth off rookie A.J. Ramos before Werth went deep on Bell to tie it in the ninth.
The Nationals won Saturday on pinch-hitter Corey Brown’s bases-loaded single off Chad Guadin.
But the focus once again, as it has been for much of the season, was on Bell. The All-Star closer who signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Marlins fell short yet again.
He refused to use the long rain delay as an excuse.
Bell had warmed up and was set to pitch the ninth when a severe storm hit, bringing high winds and heavy rain. The gusts were so strong that a member of the grounds crew was lifted off his feet like Mary Poppins as he held on to the blowing tarp.
Following the long delay, Bell returned to the mound.
Werth hit his eighth pitch over the wall in center for a game-tying solo shot. Bell struck out the next three hitters, but the damage had already been done.
“It was a long time before I went in the game,” Bell said. “But I don’t think that had any [effect] on what happened.”
When the Nationals loaded the bases with no outs in the tenth, left fielder Justin Ruggiano was brought in as a fifth infielder, and the desperation move paid off. Kurt Suzuki hit a ground ball up the middle that Ruggiano fielded and fired to the plate for the force.
But, with the Marlins’ two outfielders squeezed slightly toward the middle, Brown lofted a lazy fly ball to right. Giancarlo Stanton reached out after a long run but the ball came out of his glove and the winning run scored from third. Even had Stanton caught the ball, it’s unlikely he would have thrown out Ian Desmond, who was on third.
The outcome spoiled Mark Buehrle’s bid to record his 13th win for the fourth consecutive season. Buehrle gave up three runs over seven innings and was in line for the win before the bullpen let it slip away.
“That’s part of the game,” Buehrle said. “That’s why you try to go deep in the games. Obviously you’d like to get every win you can, but stuff is going to happen. I mean, you got to turn the page.”
It’s a page that Guillen feels has been turned far too often this season.
“We battled back all day, waited for three hours, and lose the game,” he said. “It [makes you mad]. It feels like you’re wasting a day of your life at the ballpark.”