The Washington Times - July 18, 2009, 11:23PM

Jim Riggleman has found little with his Nationals club to complain about the last three nights. True, this team is 0-3 since a managerial change that on the surface appears to have made zero difference.

The interim manager, though, likes the effort he’s getting out of his players. And he made sure to tell them that tonight following a 6-5 loss to the Cubs that hinged on a couple of key moments.


“Good things are going to happen for these guys,” Riggleman said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be tomorrow or three days from now, four, five, who knows? Maybe it’s next week. We thought we were going to make it happen tonight. But it’s going to happen. I’m not going to quit, and nobody in there better quit.”

The two keys to this game: Jordan Zimmermann’s mistake slider to Alfonso Soriano in the sixth, and the Nats’ inability to capitalize on two golden opportunities after that.

Zimmermann looked great the first two times he faced Soriano, striking out the slugger looking in the second and swinging in the fourth. But the rookie left a slider up over the plate with two on in the sixth, and Soriano (who hadn’t homered in 120 at-bats) crushed it to right-center for a three-run homer.

Zimmermann was clearly dejected after the big blow, but afterward he sounded like he couldn’t wait to get another crack at Soriano down the road.

“That’s how you become a good big league pitcher, by facing the best,” Zimmermann said. “I want to go out there against the best every time and see how I fare. I mean, I did well against Soriano pretty much the whole game. It’s just one mistake, and he looks like he got the best of me.”

Zimmermann’s mistake would have been overlooked had his teammates simply pushed one more run home. They loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and eighth innings, but managed to score only once (on a sac fly by Ryan Zimmerman). All told, Washington stranded 12 runners on base.

That’s how you lose a one-run ballgame. And that’s how you find yourself at an inconceivable 26-64 for the season.