WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Nationals overcame all sorts of injuries and offensive woes to lead the NL East. What they could always count on was solid defense, home-field advantage and an uncanny knack for winning close games.
All of that deserted them Monday night in a 5-4 loss to the
Colorado Rockies, owners of the league's worst record and the majors' worst road mark.Third baseman Vinny Castilla's second error of the game allowed the Rockies to score the tiebreaking run in the ninth inning. Colorado's fourth run was unearned, too, thanks to a fielding error by shortstop Cristian Guzman in the sixth.And Colorado's second run came when Dustan Mohr singled, moved to second on Castilla's throwing error, reached third on a passed ball and scored on center fielder Preston Wilson's misplay of a long fly. The ball glanced off Wilson's glove as he stumbled
face-down to the turf, his cap flying off. It was ruled a triple."We're not executing defensively or offensively," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "I don't know what it's from. It could be fatigue. Who knows?"His team has lost nine of 12 games. It has also dropped four consecutive one-run games and leads the majors with 24 such victories.It was a sloppy game all around. Each team made three errors. The clubs combined to go 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position and leave 16 runners on base."Somebody had to win, and I'm just glad that we kept after it," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. The Nationals, he added, "find a way to win close ballgames at home more than often, but luckily they didn't find a way to win tonight."Washington entered the game with fewer errors than all but one NL club. Castilla had made four miscues all season before Monday; in April, he set a major-league record for consecutive errorless chances by a third baseman, dating to last year with Colorado."It's surprising, because we always make those plays," said Castilla, who wouldn't blame his miscues on left knee tendinitis that has him limping on the basepaths."I just missed the ball. That's it," he said.With a runner on second and two outs in a 4-4 game, Nationals
closer Chad Cordero (2-2) got Aaron Miles to hit a seemingly routine grounder. But the ball went past Castilla, allowing Eddie Garabito to score. Left fielder Ryan Church threw home, too late to get Garabito, but catcher Brian Schneider threw to second base to get Miles and end the inning.The Nationals put at least one runner on in every inning but only managed to score in the first and seventh. That continues an offensive drought that's seen them score more than four runs only once in six games."We just seem like were in a fog," Robinson said. "We're not thinking. We're not understanding situations."Jose Acevedo (1-0), activated off the disabled list before the game, threw a scoreless eighth to get the win. Brian Fuentes got the final three outs for his 13th save.He struck out Jose Vidro for the first out on a 3-2 pitch. Vidro slammed his helmet to the ground and was immediately ejected, and Robinson argued with home umpire Mark Wegner. After Jose Guillen
reached on an error and Wilson walked, pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll
grounded into a game-ending double play.Washington entered the day with the best home record (30-13) in the majors; Colorado improved to 8-36 away from Coors Field.With the temperature 87 at the start, Nationals right-hander Tony Armas Jr. left because of dizziness and dehydration after throwing 31 pitches. He allowed one run and three hits and departed after throwing two balls to the leadoff batter in the third inning.Cordero came on in the ninth, Washington's fifth pitcher."We've been struggling a lot," Cordero said. "This showed exactly how we've been playing."Rockies starter Byung-Hyun Kim went six innings, allowing two runs and seven hits.Colorado outfielder Eric Byrnes, acquired last week from Oakland, had three hits and drove in a run."We can play some really good baseball in the second half if we just take care of little things, eliminate mistakes and play well," Byrnes said.
Miles stretched his hitting streak to 13 games, tying a career high. ... Rockies center fielder Cory Sullivan made a spectacular running, diving catch on a liner by Vidro for the first out of the fifth, earning a tip of the cap from Mohr. ... Schneider had four singles but never scored. Guzman, hitting behind him, went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .190.