- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 9, 2006

DENVER — The Washington Nationals lost to the Colorado Rockies, 11-8 last night, but to be honest, neither team deserved to win this ballgame.

Not the Rockies, who kept trying to hand victory back to the Nationals, particularly during a three-run eighth inning that featured a pair of errors as ugly as anything ever seen on a big-league field.

And certainly not the Nationals, who committed an astounding six errors to raise their season total to a major league-high 121, blew leads in both the seventh and eighth innings.

This was meaningless September baseball at its finest … or worst, depending on one’s perspective. Two teams playing out the string with rosters full of rookies. Poor pitching performances. Lots of blown leads. And shoddy defense. Really shoddy defense.

In the end, the Rockies “earned” the win thanks to a generous Washington squad that did everything within its power to give the game away.

The Nationals had been in position to win after scoring three runs in the eighth, an inning that featured a clutch, two-run double from pinch-hitter Ryan Church but was made possible by two ghastly Colorado errors.

With two outs and a runner on second, Brian Schneider hit a routine grounder to first. Rockies reliever Jose Mesa, though, dropped a routine throw as he went to cover the bag, and the inning was prolonged.

Church followed with a double to left-center off left-hander Tom Martin, his 18th and 19th RBI in 37 games since returning from Class AAA New Orleans, tying the game.

And if that wasn’t enough, Church scored moments later when Martin threw wild after fielding Henry Mateo’s bouncer back to the mound.

That put the Nationals ahead, 8-7, but this one was far from over. Washington’s Jon Rauch came on to pitch the eighth and immediately walked the leadoff man, prompting a rare mound visit from manager Frank Robinson.

It all came crumbling down after that. A one-out single put runners on the corners, and a Brad Hawpe sacrifice fly tied the game 8-8. After intentionally walking Troy Tulowitzki, Rauch (3-4) surrendered an RBI single to Chris Iannetta (who had been 0 for his last 21) and now the Rockies had the lead.

And they weren’t done. A Jeff Salazar single made it 10-8, and a subsequent Ryan Zimmerman throwing error (the Nationals’ season-high sixth of the night) made it 11-8.

All of that came after an unsightly seventh inning by the Nationals defense, in which three of the errors were committed.

Having just taken a 5-4 lead on pinch-hitter George Lombard’s first home run since April 19, 2003, Washington quickly gave it back.

Rookie infielder Melvin Dorta, who replaced shortstop Felipe Lopez in the third inning after the latter bruised his right ankle, started things off by bobbling Matt Holliday’s leadoff grounder and then threw it away. A double by Hawpe put runners on second and third, and after getting a fly out, reliever Saul Rivera appeared to get out of the jam when he snared Iannetta’s comebacker and caught Holliday in a rundown.

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