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Silent bats, Astros' attack nips Nats
07/23/2005 12:45 AM ET
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have one of the best home records in baseball, yet some of them have worried more about the dimensions of spacious Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and about how they are being robbed of home runs.

It seems odd now, because the Astros didn't have any problems hitting there as they routed the Nationals, 14-1, in front of 38,019 fans on Friday night.

Here's proof of how the Astros were not affected by the vast RFK Stadium. In the first inning, Morgan Ensberg gave the Astros a 2-0 lead when he took Ryan Drese's first pitch out for a two-run home run out to left-center. The ball hit the scoreboard above the Toyota sign behind the outfield wall, 395 feet from home plate.

Drese gave up six runs -- five earned -- in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four batters and walked two.

Drese's line doesn't look good on the surface, but manager Frank Robinson thought Drese pitched a good ballgame. Entering the seventh inning, Drese had given up only three runs. He left the ballgame with runners on first and third with one out.

In Drese's defense, the Nationals did not play good defense behind him.

"I thought he pitched pretty well myself," Robinson said. "I figured that he gave up two runs on the home run [by Ensberg]. When you don't score and you are not as sharp on the field as you should be, you are going to lose ballgames."

Reliever Sun-Woo Kim replaced Drese and had to take one for the team, as he gave up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings. Mike Lamb also didn't seem to have problems with the dimensions, hitting a three-run home run to right field off Kim.

Kim knew all along that he was in the game to save the bullpen.

"I had bad location today," Kim said. "Everything was in the middle of the plate. I was hanging the curveball and they were swinging with confidence."

The Nationals were no match for Astros right-hander Roger Clemens, who pitched six shutout innings. He gave up three hits, struck out 10 batters and walked three. Three of those strikeouts came from outfielder Preston Wilson. Overall, Wilson struck out four times in the game.

"He mixed his pitches and he came right after you," said outfielder Ryan Church. "He was aggressive. That's just him. That's his track record."

Jose Guillen was more to the point.

"We just got our [behinds] kicked. That's it. It's as simple as that," Guillen said. "We just have to come back tomorrow and try to do our best and let's forget about today. Clemens was on his game today. I told you guys we were going to face some very tough guys this series, and I think you guys have seen it all ready."

The Nationals' best opportunity to score against Clemens occurred in the sixth inning. They had runners on first and second and no outs, but Wilson struck out and both Brad Wilkerson and Brian Schneider flied out to left field.

Washington also had a golden opportunity to score in the seventh inning against reliever Chad Qualls.

Cristian Guzman led off with a triple but was left stranded. Kim grounded out to Qualls, Jamey Carroll grounded out to first baseman Lance Berkman and Jose Vidro grounded to Craig Biggio to end the inning.

The Nationals scored their only run in the eighth inning when Church doubled off reliever Dan Wheeler to score Carlos Baerga.

"I hope this is a wakeup call for us. We have to bounce back. Hopefully, tonight, we learned a lesson. Tomorrow, we could come back and try to gain some confidence," Wilkerson said. "We have to come out ready to play and not give in. We have to take it upon ourselves to have a great at-bat and see what happens. We are not doing it right now."

With the Braves' loss in Arizona, the Nationals found themselves tied for the NL East lead. The Nationals have spent 58 days in first place. Wilkerson said it's too early to worry about the Braves.

"We need to take care of our own business. If we don't do that, it doesn't matter who is up there in the standings," Wilkerson said. "If we don't start playing better and find a way to score runs, play better defense and playing harder, I think it's going to be a long year for us."

Guillen is optimistic that Nationals can turn things around.

"Nothing is clicking for us right now. Nobody here likes to lose. Everybody wants to go in there and try to win," Guillen said. "We try to do our best. It was great in the first half. Hopefully, we will stop this slump as soon as possible. We have our fans behind us. I still think we are going to be all right. We have a lot of games left. It's just one of those days."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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