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06/10/08 12:27 AM ET

Clippard's Nats debut not as planned

Righty knocked out after 4 1/3 innings against Giants

WASHINGTON -- Unlike his Major League debut with the Yankees last year, right-hander Tyler Clippard had an outing to forget with the Nationals on Monday night.

Making his first start with the Nationals, Clippard didn't get past the fifth inning, as Washington lost to the Giants, 3-2, at Nationals Park. San Francisco swept the four-game series, while the Nationals have lost eight out of their last nine games. In those nine games, they have been outscored, 53-18.

During his memorable debut last year, Clippard pitched six innings, allowed just one run and collected his first Major League hit against the Mets. For the Nationals on Monday, Clippard lasted 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on five hits. His only clean inning occurred in the third.

Clippard ended up throwing 98 pitches in the game. It didn't help that he didn't have good command of his fastball.

"I wasn't too happy with my outing, to be honest with you," Clippard said. "I know the bullpen has had a lot of work in the last couple of games and I was hoping to go deeper in the game for them. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

"The fastball command wasn't there. When it isn't there for me, I'm a changeup pitcher, so I need my fastball to be affective. It wasn't there and it cost me. I wasn't getting ahead of guys on my fastball, so I was battling pretty much the whole night."

After the game, Clippard was optioned to Triple-A Columbus as Washington activated infielder Ronnie Belliard from the 15-day disabled list. Clippard said that he knows what to do if he wants to return to the big leagues: Control that fastball.

"No matter if I'm in the big leagues or Minor Leagues, that's what I'm going to be working on," Clippard said.

Clippard wasn't the only person who didn't get the job done. The Nationals' offense continues to sputter with no solutions in site. Washington left eight runners on base.

"Hits don't win games; hits with runners in scoring position win games," manager Manny Acta said. "We couldn't get them [in] when we had the runners in scoring position. This is our team. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to keep on fighting and snap out of it."

The Giants left 10 men on base, but they were able to score enough to win the game. The first run was scored in the first inning, when Randy Winn doubled to left-center field to score Ray Durham.

Washington tied the score in the fourth inning off right-hander Matt Cain, when Jesus Flores hit a sacrifice fly to score Lastings Milledge. The Nationals' offense was mostly quiet after that inning as Cain pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up the one run on eight hits.

The Giants scored the go-ahead runs in the fifth inning off Clippard. Winn drove in his second run of the night as he singled to center, and later scored all the way from first on a double by Bengie Molina.

The Nationals made it a one-run game in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Milledge scored on a throwing error by catcher Molina.

Later in the inning, the Nationals had the bases loaded with Brian Wilson on the mound. Felipe Lopez came to the plate and lined out hard to Winn in right field.

"I thought the ball was getting down for sure," infielder Kory Casto said. "Felipe struck it well. We battled that inning. We tried to get something going and push one across. But we couldn't come up with another one."

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