- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2005

ARLINGTON, Texas - As remarkably well as his team has played in recent weeks, manager Frank Robinson has consistently pointed out that the Washington Nationals don’t have the offensive firepower to win slugfests.

That’s especially true when Robinson has to field a lineup minus his No. 3 hitter, Jose Guillen, against one of the game’s best left-handers, Texas’ Kenny Rogers. So it was easy to forecast Washington’s 8-1 loss to the Rangers at Ameriquest Field.

Unable to put anything together against Rogers and unable to get a quality start from John Patterson, the Nationals (39-28) went down rather easily in the first matchup of Washington’s current ballclub and most recent one.

The lineup the Nationals fielded last night looked more like something Ted Williams would have trotted out for the 1971 Senators, not one from a team that had won 15 of its last 17 games.

With Guillen sidelined by an apparent stomach virus and Ryan Church out with a variety of ailments, Robinson was left to pencil in Vinny Castilla, Wil Cordero and Junior Spivey as the heart of his order. He also was forced to start rookie Tony Blanco in right field for the first time this season.

“When it’s one of your main guys, it makes a big difference,” Robinson said of Guillen’s absence. “He probably would have had four chances to get us back in the game.”

Guillen’s absence was the biggest blow for Washington, and it made for some brief, pregame intrigue. Was the combustible outfielder held out for medical reasons or as punishment for his actions and words in Anaheim earlier this week?

“No, no, no, it’s not that,” Guillen said. “I’m not feeling well, that’s it. [EnLeader] For me to not be playing today, I must not be feeling good.”

Church was held out for a variety of reasons: a tight groin, a sore foot and [-] perhaps most important [-] the headaches he continues to get from the foul ball he took off his face Tuesday night in Anaheim.

Though he played the next night and reported no problems, Church now believes he might have suffered a mild concussion. He was due to see a doctor last night and expected to be back in the lineup tonight.

“I don’t see why not,” Church said. “I’m just hoping these headaches go away.”

Had Church played, he would have faced a tough challenge in Rogers. The 40-year-old lefty has rediscovered his form this year and carried a 2.02 ERA into last night’s start.

He didn’t out-and-out dominate the Nationals, but he made big pitches when he had to, stranding two men on base three times through the first five innings.

Rogers (9-2) also benefited from some nice defense, particularly in the third, when Washington’s best scoring chance was nixed by a great relay to the plate. With a runner on first and no outs, Nick Johnson lofted a deep drive over center fielder Laynce Nix’s head. Nix snagged the ball with his bare hand and threw to second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who then fired a strike to the plate to nail Marlon Byrd.

Rogers finally wilted in the seventh, allowing a solo homer by Cristian Guzman [-] Guzman’s second homer and second RBI off left-handed pitching this season [-] followed by a single and a walk. Texas manager Buck Showalter brought in journeyman reliever John Wasdin, but Castilla bounced into a double play on Wasdin’s first pitch to kill the rally.

Unlike his much older pitching counterpart, Patterson wilted under the 93-degree game-time heat. Pitching a few hours up the road from his hometown of Orange, Texas, the 27-year-old labored from the start, needing 15 pitches to retire Mark Teixeira in the first.

Three base hits in the second led to the Rangers’ first run. One inning later, Hank Blalock belted an inside fastball from Patterson down the right-field line for his 12th homer to make it 2-0.

Patterson (3-2) was all but finished by the fifth inning. A double, a walk, an RBI single by Blalock and a sacrifice fly by Soriano accounted for two more runs. Patterson finished the inning, but then his night was done after 105 pitches.

“By the time I got to the third, I already felt it,” he said. “It was hot out there. But I kept battling, kept pitching through it.”

Washington’s bullpen didn’t fare much better, particularly T.J. Tucker, who surrendered three runs in the eighth and had to leave the game with right elbow soreness. There was no immediate word on Tucker’s injury after the game, but it would not be surprising if he were headed for the disabled list.

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