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03/17/08 9:21 PM ET

Latest start no holiday for O'Connor

Without command of changeup, Nats starter runs into trouble

VIERA, Fla. -- Monday was St. Patrick's Day, but Nationals left-hander Mike O'Connor didn't have the luck of the Irish on the mound. He lasted 4 2/3 innings and gave up five runs -- four earned -- in a 7-3 loss to the Mets at Space Coast Stadium.

O'Connor, wearing a green Nationals cap, didn't have command of his arsenal. In fact, he threw 85 pitches and only 10 first-pitch strikes. For the second straight game, O'Connor abandoned his changeup, for he had a tough time throwing it for strikes.

"The green hats were all right. I wish they would have brought me a little more luck than it did, but I can't blame it on the hat," O'Connor said.

The Mets did most of their damage against O'Connor in the fifth inning, all coming with two outs. David Wright highlighted the scoring with a two-run single.

"He struggled out there with his command [Monday]. He was behind everybody," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "When you are behind, the pitch count gets high, the count runs deep. To me, he didn't pitch today. He was working way behind in the count."

In his previous start Wednesday, O'Connor gave up no earned runs over five innings against the Dodgers and credited Jose Rijo, the special assistant to Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, for his success. Rijo was next to him back in the dugout inning offering advice. But Rijo wasn't near O'Connor in the dugout Monday, since he was on a special assignment at the Minor League complex, though he would be seen in the dugout after O'Connor left the game.

"He helped a lot," O'Connor said. "He is a good guy to talk to about certain situations. I can ask him about certain things. He keeps things very positive, he keeps you motivated. I didn't talk to him during the game today. Overall this spring, I have talked to him a good bit."

Rijo wasn't available for comment.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.