Nats unable to hold onto lead against O's
Riggleman sees glass as half full after four straight losses
BALTIMORE -- For the third consecutive game, the Nationals had a comfortable lead -- this time a three-run advantage -- and lost to the Orioles, 4-3, on Sunday.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
The Nationals, who were swept by a team with the worst record in baseball, have lost four consecutive games, 12 out of their past 15 and dropped their record to 33-43. The Nationals are 11 games behind the Braves in National League East.
"I'm not going to call any team the worst team in baseball," manager Jim Riggleman said. "Certainly, when you have leads and you give them up, that's frustrating, but the loss itself is frustrating.
"I like the fact that the glass is half full. I like the fact that we scored runs early. We had a chance to win the ballgame, and we didn't get blown out. It's a small consolation. We had runners out there to be driven in. We got some of them in. We are going to have to get more in. We have to get [good] pitching performances. There are a lot of good things to draw from."
Early in the game, Washington was able to get pitching and clutch hitting. The Nationals scored all three runs in the fourth inning off right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. Roger Bernadina highlighted the frame with a two-run homer.
Right-hander Luis Atilano had one of his best games of the season. He pitched seven innings and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits. He was pitching a perfect game until the fourth inning, when he allowed a single to Miguel Tejada.
However, things started to unravel for Atilano in the fifth inning, when Baltimore tied the score at 3. Adam Jones and Scott Moore had RBI hits, while Matt Wieters scored the third run on an error by second baseman Adam Kennedy.
The Nationals had a chance to take the lead in the top of the eighth inning. Kennedy and Ryan Zimmerman had consecutive singles off left-hander Will Ohman, who then struck out Adam Dunn. But Washington didn't score that inning, for righty David Hernandez came in to work out of the jam and was able to strike out Josh Willingham and Bernadina.
Dunn was frustrated that he couldn't get the job done with a runner in scoring position.
"In those situations, you have to drive in at least one run, and we didn't do it," Dunn said.
Baltimore scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning off reliever Tyler Clippard. Tejada singled up the middle to score Corey Patterson.
"We've seen basically the same kind of ballgame here for the last three days," Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said. "The team is not quitting, coming back from being down. So it's very nice. Guys are feeling good about that. We're certainly enjoying it."
For Clippard, he finds himself in a pitching slump. In his past two games, Clippard has allowed five runs -- four earned. On Friday, he couldn't hold a 6-3 lead and ended up taking the loss.
Clippard said he is not having mechanical issues. He is having a problem keeping the ball down.
"I'm just not executing right now," Clippard said. "It's a fine line the way I pitch. I have a lot of success with my heater up in the zone. I sometimes have trouble getting the ball down because of that. The last couple of outings, it has hurt me. I have to establish down in the zone first. That's when my fastball up is better."
The Nationals are playing like the team that lost over 100 games the last two years. The club is not hitting in the clutch, and it's playing below average defense. The pitching has been OK, but it seems like someone on the staff is having one bad inning.
"It's very frustrating," Dunn said "I know we have [a team] capable of winning. We are doing everything to lose right now and not to win. I don't know what we need to do to fix that."
Asked if changes needed to be made on the roster, Zimmerman didn't think so. He felt the team needed to play better baseball.
"We had games in the last week we should have won and we didn't," Zimmerman said.
The Nationals have a tough stretch before the All-Star break. They play the Braves, Mets, Padres and Giants. All four teams have records over .500.
"It doesn't get any easier," Kennedy said "But we have to play the games. We have to see what happens."