Nats fall short in finale vs. Rockies

Nats tripped up in finale

DENVER -- The season-series sweep is complete. The Washington Nationals couldn't find a way to stay with the Colorado Rockies once again, losing 13-9 on Sunday to make it an imperfect eight-for-eight.

How bad were the Nationals dominated by the Rockies this season? In the eight losses, the Nationals were doubled up in runs, 78-39. And over the last four days at Coors Field, Nationals pitchers allowed 43 runs, 44 hits and 26 walks, while the defense committed 10 errors that led to nine unearned runs.

"What is there to explain?" manager Frank Robinson said. "It's very simple. When you don't play defense well, and you don't get good pitching, you're not going to win ballgames."

This series went so miserably for the Nationals that even the official scoring didn't go their way. Because it didn't, Alfonso Soriano will have to wait at least one more day to become the fourth member of the very exclusive 40-homer, 40-stolen base club.

Soriano swiped No. 39 in the fifth inning, and after his RBI single in the top of the ninth, he advanced to second with Robert Fick on third base and Felipe Lopez at the plate. But rather than a stolen base, the play was ruled defensive indifference.

Not so in the eyes of Nationals first-base coach Davey Lopes, who knows a little something about stolen bases, given the fact that he amassed 557 of them in his career, good for 25th on the all-time list.

"The catcher came up throwing, and the second baseman tried to cover the bag," Lopes said. "Indifference means that there is no attempt to stop [the stolen base]. But there were two attempts. It's not like he won't get it, but that was No. 40 right there."

Official scorer Dave Einspahr said his ruling was based on the fact that Rockies first baseman Todd Helton played behind the bag, allowing Soriano to get a big lead and jump.

"I saw indifference," Einspahr said. "It didn't matter to me what the catcher did."

Second baseman Kazuo Matsui said he only took a step or two toward the bag, and catcher Chris Iannetta said, "Yeah, I came up [in a throwing motion], but it's not like I threw the ball."

Soriano didn't sound all that concerned.

"I don't know [if it was a stolen base or not]," he said. "If there aren't two out, and they give me the base, I take it. There is plenty of time to get it. It will be coming."

Besides, Soriano said he would like the milestone steal to come in a close game, and maybe lead to a Nationals win. His plan is to keep the base, no matter when it occurs.

"I'm not running now, just because I'm trying to get No. 40," Soriano said. "That's just my game. I'm running because I love to run."

Pedro Astacio's return to Coors Field was enough to make him run and hide, as he couldn't get out of the third inning. Matt Holliday belted a two-run homer in the first, Matsui lined a two-out, two-run double in the second, and two more doubles by Garrett Atkins and Holliday in the third produced another run to end Astacio's afternoon prematurely -- costing the former Rockies ace a shot at his 25th victory in the park.

The Spring Training-like parade out of the bullpen began with Beltran Perez, and if this was an audition to see how he would react to entering a game with runners on base, he came up short. Perez allowed a run-scoring double to Jeff Salazar and after an intentional pass to get to the pitcher's spot, he walked Rockies starter Jeff Francis before surrendering an RBI single to Matsui.

But the Nationals' biggest pitching gaffe was Chris Schroder's. The rookie right-hander walked two batters and hit another to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh, then served up Todd Helton's grand slam, followed by a solo homer by Atkins to turn a tie game into another Rockies' runaway. The ugly two-thirds of an inning raised Schroder's ERA from 4.91 to 7.11.

"It's tough to blame [the young pitchers]," Robinson said. "They're taking on a workload they're not used to. It's just too much for them."

The Nationals didn't make an error on Sunday, but another troubling pattern did continue. They put together a five-run rally to tie the game at seven in the top of the fifth, but quickly lost the lead in the bottom of the inning when Ryan Wagner allowed a walk and two singles. And after tying the game in the top of the seventh, Schroder unraveled in the bottom half of the inning.

"I can't think of a good reason for it," Robinson said. "I don't want to tax my brain and come up with some kind of excuse. It takes the air right out of you and it puts you back on your heels. You think that no matter what we do, they're going to come back."

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