Nationals suffer seventh defeat to Rox

Nationals suffer seventh defeat to Rox

DENVER -- The key questions entering Saturday's game were how would Ramon Ortiz follow the highlight performance of his Major League career, and how would the Washington Nationals bounce back from a dreadful display of baseball in the first two games of this series?

The answer in both cases was not quite well enough, and that translated to a 9-5 Nationals loss to the Colorado Rockies before 22,735 at Coors Field. And so the question heading into Sunday's season-series finale is this: Can the Nationals beat the Rockies this season?

They haven't done so in seven tries -- the first three games of this series, as well as all four played June 12-15 at RFK Stadium.

"There's no such thing," manager Frank Robinson responded when asked if the Rockies had his team's number. [Seven losses in a row] means they have our number?"

But the evidence certainly points in that direction. In the seven games, the Rockies -- who sit in last place in the National League West with a 66-76 record -- have outscored the Nationals 65-30. And both times, Washington entered the series against Colorado playing some of its best baseball of the season.

At least things were a bit better than Friday night's debacle, when the Nationals committed six errors and allowed six unearned runs in an 11-5 loss. But that's not saying much. Robinson was so concerned after Friday's game that he held a postgame meeting to address the situation. He was less concerned after Saturday's loss, but still nowhere near pleased.

"Anything would be better than [Friday] night," Robinson said. "It was better. But we're still giving up too many multiple-run innings."

After taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning of his last start, Ortiz fell to 10-13 by allowing seven runs and six hits -- including two home runs -- in 6 1/3 innings. The Nationals defense didn't do him any favors, as it committed two more errors and allowed two more unearned runs -- bringing the alarming series totals to 10 and nine, respectively.

And once again, a misplay that wasn't ruled an error played a key role in the Rockies' game-winning rally. After Ortiz allowed a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Kazuo Matsui in the bottom of the seventh, Jamey Carroll laid down a bunt.

Robert Fick, giving Brian Schneider a day off behind the plate, fielded it and rushed a throw to second, rather than get the easy out at first base. But Matsui beat the throw that pulled shortstop Felipe Lopez slightly off the bag (the play was ruled a fielder's choice), and after a groundout and an intentional walk to load the bases, Matt Holliday's hard ground-ball single up the middle off reliever Chris Schroder scored two runs to break a tie at 5.

"You want a ground ball in that situation," Schroder said. "The pitch was down and in. But he just stayed inside of it, and hit it up the middle. A little bit to the right or left, and we would have got the double play to get out of it."

Ortiz couldn't even retire the first hitter he faced this time, as Carroll -- the former National who reached base five times and scored three runs -- singled to start the bottom of the first. Ortiz didn't allow a run until two outs in the ninth last time out, but Holliday took him deep for a two-run shot four batters into this one. But in between Rockies rallies, Ortiz did have a stretch of retiring 12 of 13 hitters.

"I don't think I pitched too bad,'' Ortiz said. "The way the team is playing, nothing is coming together. We're not playing well right now."

The Nationals had several opportunities to add onto their run total against Rockies starter Josh Fogg and four relievers, but were only 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, and stranded nine runners -- including three when Nook Logan flied out to end the third inning.

"We put up a single run, we put up a single run," Robinson said. "We should have had more from the opportunities we had."

That left the highlight of Alfonso Soriano lining a home run into the left-field seats in the fourth inning to break a tie with Vladimir Guerrero and set an Expos/Nationals franchise record at 45.

"The one that will mean the most to me is 40/40," said Soriano, who is only two steals shy of another 40-homer, 40-steal season.

"The pitch was down, but he's a freak; he hits everything," said Fogg, who served up the milestone shot.

Added Robinson: "It's a nice achievement. But it's a bit hollow considering the season we're having."

Tony DeMarco is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.