<
>

Closed-door meeting doesn't stop Nationals' one-run woes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Frank Robinson held a 104-minute, closed-door
clubhouse meeting Saturday afternoon so his players could "clear
the air" a day after they lost a 12th straight one-run game and
their starting pitcher threw a mini-tantrum upon exiting.

So what did the Nationals head out and do after the "tough
love" session?

They lost another one-run decision, and their starting pitcher
made clear he wasn't pleased about leaving the game when he did.

San Diego's Joe Randa delivered a tiebreaking RBI double off
reliever Joey Eischen one batter after Ryan Drese slammed his glove
in the dugout when he was lifted in the seventh inning, and the NL
West-leading Padres got back to .500 by edging the Nationals 3-2
Saturday night.

Drese had a 2-2 count on Dave Roberts with a man on second and
no outs in the seventh inning of a 2-all game. That's when Robinson
removed the right-hander. Eischen, a lefty, struck out Roberts but
gave up a hit to the righty Randa.

What did Drese (3-5) think about being taken out in the middle
of an at-bat?

"I was very surprised. Never happened before," Drese said,
adding that Robinson didn't give him a reason for the timing. "He
gets to make the moves. It's one of those things, that if we go out
there and end up winning the game, then it looks like a great move.
If we lose, then it looks like a bad move."

Robinson said he didn't think Drese would get Roberts out, and
he hoped the veteran Eischen would know he should pitch around
Randa to get to the next two batters, both left-handed.

"We gambled a little bit there," Robinson said.

Still, that wouldn't have loomed so large if the Nationals
didn't have their latest in a string of poor showings on offense --
and this time against Pedro Astacio (1-2), who had lost his last
five decisions.

"We're just not putting enough pressure on the other ballclub
offensively," Robinson said.

The Nationals scored on Jose Vidro's RBI groundout in the third,
and Vinny Castilla's solo shot in the fourth. It was the 2004 NL
RBI leader's first homer since June 30 -- a span of 93 at-bats.

But Washington never got more than one hit in an inning, went
0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and left five runners on
base. After Vidro doubled off Astacio with two outs in the fifth,
San Diego's starter combined with two relievers to retire nine
straight batters.

That Washington drought ended with Nick Johnson's two-out single
in the eighth, but Preston Wilson then struck out, drawing
scattered boos from the crowd of 38,076.

Trevor Hoffman worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 29th save.

San Diego won its third straight game to get to 55-55.

"No relief in sight. It will be a relief when we clinch,"
Randa said. "We're going to keep pressing and pushing, every
inning, every game."

They had 11 hits, but left 11 runners on base. San Diego's first
two runs both came on sacrifice flies.

"Getting contributions from everybody," manager Bruce Bochy
said. "We scratched and clawed again tonight."

The Nationals, meanwhile, were assured of dropping another
series; that makes eight of nine they've lost. And a team that was
24-8 in one-run games on July 8 is 0-13 since in such contests.

Robinson said the pregame meeting was a chance for his players
to raise concerns -- "some things that came up was, like, tough
love," he said -- but neither he nor they would get into specifics.

"We didn't waste this card. I can't remember the last time I
played this card. This was not your typical meeting. This was a
meeting where the players talked to the staff and talked about
anything that they wanted to dream up. I call it a 'clear the air'
type meeting," Robinson said.

"Just because you have a meeting doesn't mean you're going to
go out and go on a tear."

Game notes
San Diego is 21-11 in one-run games. ... Washington dropped
to 5½ games behind Atlanta in the NL East, and stayed one game
behind Houston in the wild-card standings. ... Bochy said RHP Jake
Peavy would make his scheduled start Sunday despite hurting the tip
of a finger on his pitching hand on Friday.