Poor defense dooms Nationals

Poor defense dooms Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Poor relief pitching and defense cost the Nationals, who lost to the Angels, 3-2, at Nationals Park on Monday night. Washington has now lost six of its past seven games.

In their past 10 games, the Nationals have made 12 errors and who knows how many mental mistakes. The 11th and 12th errors ended up hurting Washington in the eighth inning.

Washington had a 2-1 lead before Los Angeles plated two runs in the top of the eighth. With Nationals reliever Saul Rivera on the mound, Chone Figgins had a bunt single, stole second and went to third on an error by catcher Jesus Flores.

With the infield in, Erick Aybar hit a hard grounder to Felipe Lopez, who let the ball go under his glove for a two-base error and allowed Figgins to tie the score. Lopez was not available for comment, but manager Manny Acta felt Lopez should have made the play.

"He just couldn't catch the ground ball," said Acta. "I'm not going to over-analyze anything. He should've had the ground ball and he didn't catch it. That's it."

After the miscue, Aybar scored on a single by Garret Anderson to give Los Angeles a one-run lead and Rivera a loss.

"To win 2-1 is not easy," Acta said. "You almost have to play perfect [baseball]. We were far from perfect, when you make as many errors as runs were scored. Obviously, you want to win the ballgame, but some things got out of hand defensively, which was one of our strengths, but let's get ready for tomorrow."

Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann, who found himself in a pitchers' duel with John Lackey, lasted seven innings and gave up one run on six hits. Bergmann struck out six batters and walked none.

Acta knew in the first inning that Bergmann was going to have a great outing. The Nats starter was getting quick outs and his pitch count was low.

"I thought I was pretty good. I didn't falter much from the game plan," Bergmann said. "I had pretty good location on all my pitches."

In the bottom of the third inning, Lackey gave up the first run of the game -- a solo home run to Willie Harris. It was Harris' second homer in as many days.

"I'm working hard in the cages and getting my work in," Harris said. "Fortunately, some of the balls are starting to fall in for me. Nothing different from what I've been doing previously. I'm going out and being a lot more aggressive early. That's the only difference."

But the Angels answered right back against Bergmann in the top of the fifth inning, when Jeff Mathis hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Casey Kotchman.

But Harris broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out, Harris tripled. Paul Lo Duca followed with a line drive toward Lackey, who caught the ball. Lackey tried to double up Harris at third but threw the ball away, allowing Harris to score.

Lackey ended up pitching eight innings, giving up two runs -- one earned -- on six hits. The Nationals had a golden opportunity to score more runs in the sixth inning off the right-hander, but they didn't get the job done.

Washington had runners on first and second with no outs. The next hitters -- Lastings Milledge and Dmitri Young -- couldn't drive the runners in, but Flores walked to load the bases with two outs. The inning ended, however, when the next hitter, Ronnie Belliard, grounded out to Figgins at third base.

"He was tough as usual. That's why he has an ERA below 2.00," Acta said about Lackey. "We had a chance to get a hit and pull away, but we couldn't get that hit with the bases loaded."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.