Misplayed fly comes back to bite Nats
Misstep opens floodgates, leads to eighth straight loss
WASHINGTON -- The pages keep turning in the Nationals' 2008 season, but the story stays the same. Manager Manny Acta stated it simply after Friday's 4-3 loss to the Rockies, Washington's eighth straight defeat and 79th of the season.
"Another one of those nights where we had our chances and just can't drive in runs," Acta said.
One inning proved to be the crucial chapter in Friday's tale.
Holding a slim 2-1 lead in the fifth, Tim Redding induced two quick outs before Seth Smith reached on a single. In the next at-bat, Matt Holliday hit a drive to deep center, over the head of a leaping Lastings Milledge. Smith scored, and one batter later, Brad Hawpe smacked a two-run home run, giving the Rockies a lead they would not relinquish.
Milledge broke late on what appeared to be a catchable ball.
After the game, Redding expressed his disappointment with the two-out runs, saying that he thought "the inning should have been over."
"One play changes the game," Redding said. "We should have won this game, 3-1. The second home run -- the hop should never have happened. I thought the team played well today."
Asked if he thought Milledge should have caught the ball, Redding simply said: "Not commenting -- next question. I made my point. I think we should have won the game."
Milledge said he "kind of stayed" before starting back on the ball, which landed at the warning track and bounced to the wall.
"It kind of rose on me," Milledge said. "I didn't make the play; I should have made the play."
The game itself started off well for the Nationals, as Ronnie Belliard followed Emilio Bonifacio's leadoff double with a single for a 1-0 lead two batters in. The Rockies tied the score an inning later, only for Washington to get another run in the third, with Belliard scoring on Ryan Zimmerman's single.
The Nationals pushed one more across in the sixth, when Austin Kearns came home on Aaron Boone's groundout, but they were unable to tie it again. Colorado shut down Washington's offense, and Brian Fuentes capped the night with a three-strikeout save
Redding lasted six innings, striking out five and walking just one.
"I thought that he threw the ball very well today," Acta said. "He had good velocity and life on his fastball, he just had that one bad inning. ... I thought he threw the ball today better than in his last two outings."
On the other side of the box score, Nationals hitters struggled to make contact against starter Jorge De La Rosa and the Colorado bullpen. In total, Washington struck out 13 times -- 12 swinging.
"He pitched well against us last time," Acta said of De La Rosa. "He's got good stuff. If he gets the ball over the plate, he can be effective. Here's a lefty who throws low to mid 90s with a good changeup and a good breaking ball."
Bonifacio was the most noticeable victim Friday, striking out four times after his leadoff double, dropping his average to .227.
Acta said Bonifacio needs "to learn the strike zone."
"He swings at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone," Acta added. "It's a learning process -- simple as that."
Perhaps Acta's comments could apply to much of the Nationals' 25-man roster, now the fourth youngest in the National League. Washington had the youngest team before placing Alberto Gonzalez on the disabled list and recalling Boone on Thursday.
The faces may be new, but the results are not, as Zimmerman knows.
"Just another tough one-run loss," he said. "Now we'll try and turn it around."
Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.