Randolph stands by his Maine man

Randolph stands by his Maine man

WASHINGTON -- Manager Willie Randolph said that he didn't consider taking starter John Maine out of the game in the fourth inning, because he didn't think the right-hander was struggling.

"I thought he was throwing the ball pretty good, actually," Randolph said. "I didn't think he was losing it."

A rough fourth inning foreshadowed a painful fifth for Maine, who allowed a career-high eight runs in the Mets' 9-8 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday.

On Monday, Maine spoke about how he was ready to answer the challenge of bringing the team out of its recent struggles. When that didn't happen, Maine said that the blame rested squarely on him.

"I think everyone did their job but me. The offense did a great job, and we did a great job on defense," Maine said. "I just didn't hold my end."

After allowing a run in the second and third innings, the bases were loaded for pinch-hitter Justin Maxwell in the fourth. Maxwell launched a shot to left field, which was pulled in by Moises Alou with his back against the wall at the 380-foot marker.

It drew a gasp from the crowd, but not from Randolph, who let Maine return for the fifth.

"There are lots of balls that are hit hard," the Mets manager said. "I don't think you take a guy out because of that."

Maine's struggles continued in the fifth, culminating in an errant curveball to Ronnie Belliard that turned into a three-run home run.

In his postgame assessment, the right-hander said that pitches like that one got him in trouble -- one of his many mistakes.

Maine added that as the season winds down, he continues to feel good, and that his changeup is better than at the start of the season, though his slider is off at times.

Randolph also stood behind Maine, who will be counted on in his next start if the pennant race remains close. He said that Maine's impressive season earns him a little more slack on the mound.

"He's one of my better pitchers," Randolph said. "So you let him ride, you let him go."

Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.