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Nats' Skid Goes From Bad to Worse

Colorado Rockies starter Livan Hernandez delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Colorado Rockies starter Livan Hernandez delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) (Nick Wass - AP)

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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 17, 2008

This isn't new territory -- not yet, at least. At this point, the Washington Nationals need more than just a routine fiasco to blaze a trail into the latest frontier of losing. Last night's 13-6 loss to Colorado at Nationals Park leaves them with a nine-game losing streak, but this season, at least, nine-game skids come around with the frequency of Law & Order marathons. Three times this year the Nationals have lost nine in a row, two such streaks coming since July 22.

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If the Nationals manage to avoid a win this afternoon, setting up a third straight series sweep, they'll be 10-game losers for the first time all year.

To extend this latest free-fall, the Nationals squandered promising odds, a product of the pitching match-up. Colorado started Liván Hernández, claimed off waivers from Minnesota last week, who allowed nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in his first start with his new team. Washington countered with John Lannan, who has pitched well enough this year to be a stopper, if only the Nationals could support him with runs.

This time, Lannan exhibited none of his usual precision. In four-plus innings, the Rockies battered him for eight runs. Manager Manny Acta said he doesn't believe Lannan, who has pitched 141 2/3 innings this year, is tiring, but Lannan said: "I don't even know what was going on. I just didn't have anything today. Just wasn't there mentally. I don't know what it was, but it can't happen again."

Lannan merely contributed to Washington's catalogue of mistakes. The team committed three errors. In the fifth inning, in which Lannan faced the first three hitters, eight consecutive Rockies reached base -- four via walk. By the end of that inning, the Nationals trailed 11-2. In the sixth, still facing Hernández, the Nationals staged a mini-rally, but Jesús Flores was thrown out at home plate while trying to score on a Ronnie Belliard double, a decision that dumped ice water on a potential comeback.

"When things are going bad, it tends to multiply," first baseman Kory Casto said.

Indeed, the tag on Flores at the plate resulted in Washington's latest injury. After the game, the team determined that Flores has a strained right calf. He status was described as day-to-day, but he was scheduled have precautionary X-rays.

Box score, D5


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