Nationals Manager Frank Robinson didn't make up his mind until after yesterday's 4-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves who would start today's pivotal series finale. And when he revealed his choice, rookie reliever Jason Bergmann, the 23-year-old hadn't even been informed yet. Bergmann, though, responded to the news calmly, one of the traits that has helped him succeed since he was called up in late August.

"It's a huge game for us," Bergmann said. "You can't let things affect you. If they do, the outcome of the game might change for you. You have to just go in there relaxed, and just pitch."

Bergmann has made 48 appearances, all in relief, for Class AA Harrisburg, Class AAA New Orleans and the Nationals this season. He was last a starter at Class A Savannah in 2004, but became a reliever later that season. In seven appearances for Washington, he is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA.

Bergmann said his longest outing this year was 32/3 innings. Robinson's intention is to use Bergmann for as long as he could go -- ideally, three innings -- before piecing together the rest of the game with the bullpen.

"I just think he's the right man," Robinson said. "He's pitched very well since he's been up here. I look for the same, and hope to get the same, tomorrow from him."

Loaiza Wants to Stay Put

Right-hander Esteban Loaiza (10-10, 3.79 ERA) has a mutual option on his contract for next season at $2.9 million, one that either side could decline. Loaiza said yesterday he would like to remain in Washington next season, but he would prefer to sign a multiyear deal.

"I'm always traded and moving," said Loaiza, who hasn't spent two full seasons with the same franchise since his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1995 to '98. "I'd like to stay in one place, and I'd like to stay here."

"We'd like for him to return," his agent, John Boggs, said in a phone interview yesterday. "But we think he's proven he's worth a multiyear deal. It's really up to the Nationals."

General Manager Jim Bowden said that he would like Loaiza to return as well, but any negotiations are likely to take place after the season.