- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2007

LOS ANGELES — The Washington Nationals have been, statistically speaking, the least-powerful team in the major leagues this season. So the sight of three of his players homering last night at Dodger Stadium had to be encouraging to manager Manny Acta.

Acta, though, has been around long enough to know home runs don’t win ballgames. Pitching, defense and timely hitting do. And the Nationals had none of that during a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Left-hander Mike Bacsik, who battled all night, couldn’t protect a two-run lead in the sixth inning. Reliever Jesus Colome didn’t help matters, surrendering the deciding single and sacrifice fly.

Felipe Lopez exacerbated matters when he couldn’t get a handle on Jeff Kent’s hard smash to short that opened the inning, officially an infield single that could have been ruled an error.

And given a chance to rally late, the Nationals couldn’t get one last clutch hit. Austin Kearns struck out looking with two out and the tying run on second in the eighth, and Brian Schneider grounded into a game-ending double play in the ninth.

Put it all together and Washington (58-74) was handed its fourth straight loss, a difficult stretch that has turned this 10-game road trip sour. Actas club has two more chances to get back on track before heading home late tomorrow night.

Its easier said than done, the manager said. Weve still got to go out there and get it done. Were playing a tough team, and were going to have to go out there and perform and play better than we have been playing.

The Nationals power splurge last night seemingly came out of nowhere, and it certainly surprised most of the 46,944 in attendance.

Dodger Stadium, with its deep outfield alleys and cool, thick air, has long been averse to home runs. But the usually punchless Nationals didn’t seem to care, clubbing three homers off Derek Lowe.

Dmitri Young kicked things off with a solo blast on the first pitch he saw in the second inning. Kearns followed with a single, bringing Wily Mo Pena to the plate for the evening’s strangest (and most noteworthy at-bat).

Pena fouled off Lowe’s 2-1 offering and immediately recoiled in pain, having injured his left foot in the process. Acta and trainer Lee Kuntz checked on the slugger, who insisted he could complete the at-bat and dug back in.

I wanted to play, he said.

Two pitches later, Pena sent a towering shot into the left-field bleachers, a two-run homer that gave the Nationals the lead and would have served as an inspirational moment if not for the fact he could barely make it around the bases.

Doing his best impression of Kirk Gibson — the man who hit perhaps the most memorable home run in Dodger Stadium history, connecting off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series despite two injured knees — Pena limped the requisite 360 feet and then was escorted down the dugout tunnel and into the clubhouse training room.

It was tough, said Pena, who has never seen the Gibson homer. I know when anybody hits a homer, you have to run the bases. But that was a situation where I had to jump, because I didnt want to put any pressure on my foot. It was hurt. Its still bothering me, very sore.

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