Cordero's Troubles Mirror Nats' Woes

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 7, 2007

CHICAGO, May 6 -- Long after the Chicago Cubs danced and the Wrigley Field stands rocked in celebration of the home team's come-from-behind, 10-inning, 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday afternoon, the cramped visitors clubhouse provided something of a support group for Chad Cordero, the embattled Nationals closer who had the opportunity to save another game, but did not.

"He's still my closer," Manager Manny Acta said.

"Chief's our guy," catcher Brian Schneider said. "He'll be all right."

At the conclusion of a painful sweep at the hands of the Cubs, three games in which the Nationals stranded 27 runners and stretched their overall losing streak to five, closing ranks seemed a natural reaction. Almost nothing is going right for the team that has the worst record in baseball. Sunday, not only did Cordero blow his fourth save of the year -- the most in the majors -- but John Patterson, the preseason choice as the club's top starting pitcher, was placed on the disabled list with soreness in his right elbow and biceps.

Moreover, the Cubs sealed the game with a fly ball from reserve Daryle Ward -- a National at this time last year -- off reliever Ryan Wagner that fell over drawn-in left fielder Kory Casto for a single in the 10th, scoring Matt Murton from third with the winning run.

Next up? The team with the best record in the National League, Milwaukee. In those cluttered quarters beneath the stands full of Cubs fans, who poured into the streets of Wrigleyville singing about their team's eighth win in nine games, the Nationals considered how to deal with it all.

"Forget about today, forget about the series," said veteran first baseman Dmitri Young, who delivered a two-out, two-run pinch-hit single in the top of the seventh to put Washington up 3-2. "Go in and play the Brewers to the best of our ability. . . . We're not on suicide watch. It's the game of baseball, 162 [games]. If we can't handle it, we'll quit. But we're not quitters."

The situation, though, is wearing on the entire clubhouse. The Nationals have the least productive offense in baseball, so there are few winnable games. That said, each of the games against the Cubs -- decided by a total of five runs -- could have gone Washington's way. Cordero said he understood how badly the team needed a victory, and his teammates said the tough task now is to make sure the team doesn't fracture.

"That all has to do with us in here taking care of each other," Schneider said. "The season's a long time. But it's up to us to take care of each other in here and pick each other up and make sure that we continue to stay as positive as possible, and not harp on negatives and yada yada yada, to really pick each other up.

"It's not easy for Chief right now. But we need to do our best to take care of him and try to take care of him and try to help him forget about today as much as possible."

Cordero, though, has much to forget. Start with an off-the-field issue. Back in his California home town, his paternal grandmother is dying, and Cordero said Sunday she has been given perhaps a week to live.

Her condition, he said, had nothing to do with his performance.

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