After loss, Acta gives team day off
Nationals manager tells players to rest, forget about baseball
WASHINGTON -- A few minutes after watching his team lose to the Rockies, 7-2, at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon, Nationals manager Manny Acta held a team meeting and told his players to enjoy the day off on Monday and forget about what happened.
The Nationals are on a 10-game losing streak, a franchise high since moving to Washington, and they are about to embark on a tough six-game road trip against the Phillies and Cubs.
"[A day off] is a real good thing," Acta said. "We had a meeting. I talked to the guys. I said nothing other than stay positive, go home and forget about baseball. Take the day with your family. Tell them you love them.
"Have a barbecue, whatever, and get ready to play on Tuesday. I have no reason to kick and scream because they are giving me the effort. Things are not happening right now."
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman agreed.
"It would be nice to get away from it for a day," he said. "We had some tough games this last week or so."
As for Sunday, the Nationals didn't take advantage of their opportunities.
Washington got off to a good start against Rockies starter Aaron Cook, when Ronnie Belliard scored on a groundout by Pete Orr in the second inning. But Colorado would take the lead for good in the fourth.
After Chris Iannetta reached on an error by Orr at shortstop and Troy Tulowitzki walked, Ian Stewart hit an Odalis Perez pitch over the right-center-field wall to give the Rockies a 3-1 lead.
The Nationals made it a one-run game against Cook in the fifth inning, but a bad break prevented them from scoring more.
With runners on first and second and one out, Lastings Milledge came to the plate and hit a ground-rule double to left-center field to drive in Emilio Bonifacio. Willie Harris would have easily scored from first had the ball not bounced into the left-field bullpen.
"When you are going bad, things like that happens," Acta said.
Aaron Boone then came to the plate and struck out. After Belliard walked to load the bases, Ryan Langerhans hit a liner right at Brad Hawpe in right field to end the threat.
In the next inning, Acta went for it all. Down by a run, the Nationals had runners on first and second and no outs. Acta decided to have Zimmerman pinch-hit for Perez, but he flied out to left fielder Matt Holliday. The next batter, Bonifacio, grounded into a double play to end the inning.
It didn't bother Acta that Bonifacio swung at the first pitch in that situation, because the second baseman was being aggressive with runners on base.
Acta was more upset with Bonifacio in the ninth inning, however, when, with the Nationals trailing by five, he swung at the first pitch. Acta said it's a learning process.
"He joined us not too long ago, and that's not part of our rules here as a team," Acta said. "He didn't know it. We addressed it."
In the eighth inning, Hawpe hit a solo homer off Charlie Manning and Seth Smith hit a three-run shot off Jesus Colome.
Acta blamed the loss on two things: The Nationals couldn't score with fewer than two outs, and their pitchers walked too many batters -- seven in all.
"We are doing way too many things to beat ourselves," Acta said. "Right now, our situational hitting really kind of buried us today.
"We continue to walk guys. Those walks preceded home runs. A lot of things really didn't help."
The Nationals dropped their record to 44-81. For the fourth consecutive season, they will not have a winning record.
Boone offered an explanation for the team's struggles.
"There are a lot of reasons," he said. "We had every one and their brother on the [disabled list] this year at some point. Guys underperformed. That's a bad combination. ... We know we can be better and expect to be better."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.