WASHINGTON — As he watched the last, 95 mph pitch land in the catcher's mitt, and heard the plate umpire's game-ending strike call, Alex Rodriguez threw his head back.
"I didn't think it was a strike," Rodriguez said, "but I'm not the ump."
On a night that Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and manager Matt Williams were ejected in the third inning after arguing with that same umpire, Rodriguez and the Yankees wrapped up a disaster of a road trip with a 3-2 loss to Washington on Wednesday.
"You never want to end the game like that," Rodriguez said after striking out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning against Nationals closer Drew Storen, who collected his 12th save in 13 chances this season.
The Yankees head home for a day off Thursday, then games at their ballpark starting Friday, and they must be excited to be back in the Big Apple.
The team went 2-7 on the road, including a pair of losses against the Nationals.
Somehow, though, the Yankees remain atop the AL East.
"We're struggling right now," manager Joe Girardi said. "I said this division is going to be tough all year. Teams are going to go through their ups and downs, and right now we went through a tough road trip. We get to go home, which is good, but we need to play better there."
On Tuesday, the Yankees led 6-2 but lost 8-6. On Wednesday, they led 2-0 but lost again, and the biggest problems came in the seventh inning, which began with the game at 2-all.
The first batter was Wilson Ramos, and he reached on Chase Headley's fielding error. Adam Warren (2-3) then walked two batters to load the bases. One of those two free passes, to Dan Uggla, came after right fielder Carlos Beltran failed to chase down a fly ball in foul territory.
Jordan Zimmermann (4-2) earned the win, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings. Both runs came in the first inning — on Beltran's RBI double and Brian McCann's sac fly — and the Yankees couldn't tack on any more.
They also failed to take advantage of Harper's departure.
The two-time reigning NL Player of the Week, who entered Wednesday with 10 homers in his previous 12 games, wound up in a bit of a he-said, he-said with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson that Harper thought was connected to him leaving the batter's box.
"I don't think 40,000 people came to watch him ump tonight. Plain and simple. Plain and simple. I mean, I really don't think they did. Especially when we're playing the Yankees. ... And, I mean, the way I'm hitting, I don't want to get tossed," Harper said. "I don't think I really did anything bad to get tossed. But maybe he just had a bad morning. Maybe he didn't get his coffee."
Not surprisingly, Hudson's version was not quite the same.
"Had nothing to do with the box," he told a pool reporter.
"He didn't like the pitch, and I let him have his say, going and coming," Hudson said. "The dugout didn't like it, and one thing led to another and I had to run him. I had to eject him."
FEAR OF UNKNOWN
Making his 11th start in the majors, Warren was not exactly thrilled to be batting for the first time.
"It was terrifying," he said after going 0 for 3. "I hadn't done it 10 years, I don't think — since high school. I was really just trying not to get hurt out there. It was kind of surprising I made contact with a few."
Yankees: CF Jacoby Ellsbury went on the 15-day DL, a day after wrenching his knee when his cleat got stuck on a swing. ... The player who took Ellsbury's roster spot, Slade Heathcott, made his major league debut in the eighth as a pinch runner, then stayed in to play center field.
Yankees: After Thursday's day off, they'll open a three-game series at home against the Texas Rangers, with RHP Michael Pineda (5-1, 3.31 ERA) facing RHP Colby Lewis (3-2, 3.06). Pineda is coming off his first loss of the season, allowing five earned runs in 5 1-3 innings against Kansas City, and is 0-2 in three career starts against Texas.