LOS ANGELES -- The Nationals found themselves in another close game, but they ended up losing to the Dodgers, 7-6, at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.
The score was tied at 6 when the Dodgers rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning against Ryan Mattheus. With runners on first and second with one out, Rafael Furcal took a 2-0 pitch from Mattheus and doubled over the head of Laynce Nix in left-center field, scoring Trent Oeltjen.
"I was forced to throw strikes. I wasn't going to give in to him," Mattheus said. "The ball was in the middle of the plate. He took a pretty good swing."
Washington has lost seven consecutive games decided by one run.
"It's tough. Whenever you lose one-run ballgames you feel like you should win," Mattheus said. "Especially guys like us in the bullpen, those are the games we want to win. We want to keep it close. I had a chance to give us another at-bat. It's a tough loss."
But don't blame this loss on Mattheus. It looked like the Nationals would be in a laugher. They had a 3-0 lead after a half inning and then a 6-2 lead after the top of the third against left-hander Ted Lilly. Jayson Werth and Rick Ankiel highlighted the scoring with two-run doubles.
After the third inning, Washington would collect just one hit, a single by Mike Morse in the fifth inning.
"The Dodgers kept battling back all game," Werth said. "We didn't tack on any more runs after the third. ... We jump out ahead. I just think the inability to tack on runs late in the game was really the difference."
Said manager Davey Johnson, "I like the way we were swinging the bats. Their starter is kind of crafty and their bullpen did a good job."
However, left-hander Tom Gorzelanny had nothing in the tank, allowing three more runs in the bottom of the third inning. The biggest blow came when Gorzelanny allowed a two-run double to Lilly to make it 6-5.
"Fortunately, I was able to help," said Lilly, who lasted five innings and allowed six runs. "I put us in a big hole with some big innings, and fortunately we were able to come back."
It was Gorzelanny's first outing since twisting his ankle in a collision at home plate with Braves catcher Brian McCann last Sunday afternoon. Gorzelanny said the ankle was fine and didn't give any excuses as to why his ERA soared to 4.46.
"It was awful pitching -- plain and simple," Gorzelanny said. "I couldn't throw anywhere in. I was leaving balls up. I wasn't able to command the fastball. It does everything right there. ... It hurts a lot. I have to get over it tomorrow and get back to work."
One wonders if Gorzelanny will lose his spot in the rotation. Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang is expected to pitch his last rehab game on Sunday for Triple-A Syracuse. If the outing goes well, Wang is expected to be taken off the disabled list by Wednesday.
Asked if Gorzelanny's spot in the rotation was in jeopardy, Johnson said, "I'm not really thinking about that right now. I just have a few bad memories, but we'll be fine. It was just a bad outing for a couple of guys."
Johnson had seen enough and went with Ross Detwiler, who stopped the bleeding by pitching 2 2/3 shutout innings.
"Det came in a did one heck of a job. I thought we had a heck of a shot to win that ballgame," Johnson.
However, right-hander Henry Rodriguez couldn't hold the lead in the seventh, throwing a wild pitch, his ninth of the season, that allowed pinch-runner Eugenio Velez to score the tying run. The count was 3-0 when Rodriguez threw the pitch.
"It's a maturing process," pitching coach Steve McCatty said about Rodriguez. "He is 23 years old. He throws exceptionally hard. He has quality pitches. He is going to throw some curveballs right in the dirt and he is going to let some fastballs get away from him. But the more he pitches, the better he is going to be. You kind of go with it. You don't like to see it, but it's part of it."
The Nationals are 49-51 and 9-13 under Johnson.
"We have a chance to win the series [Sunday]. We need to get that game for sure," Werth said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.