- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2011

Orioles left fielder Nolan Reimold’s grounder to Ryan Zimmerman in the second inning seemed like the start of a double play.

Instead, the Nationals’ Gold Glove third baseman saw his throw sail over second base. His second error of the season would be the first of three for

Washington on a sloppy day. As much as pitching and defense backboned eight straight wins since June 10, both betrayed the Nationals in a 7-4 loss to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.

“We played sloppy, and that’s what cost us,” Zimmerman said. “Obviously, I have to make that play in the [second]. That kind of changes the momentum of the whole game.

“We played bad, and we lost. That’s what happens when you play that way. … You don’t deserve to win when you play like that. We learn from it, forget about it and move on to Tuesday.”

Even thought the Nationals’ season-best winning streak came to a halt, they enter Monday’s off day having won of 13 of their past 19.

The road to the eight straight was paved by a pitching staff that averaged 6 2/3 innings and just two earned runs allowed, along with a defense that committed just one error. Even that came after 13 spotless games.

Sunday, they were not that team. While starter Tom Gorzelanny admittedly left several pitches up - the key to the Orioles’ 10 hits through 4 1/3 innings - the suddenly error-prone Nationals didn’t help. Gorzelanny was the victim of a few questionable defensive plays, but he also benefited from three of the season-high four double plays they turned. Both aspects of their game fell short at times.

“I went back and looked at everything and saw that every ball that was hit was about waist-high,” Gorzelanny said. “You can’t be successful on pitches like that.”

There was no defense against the solo home run Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy tattooed to center field in the third, a belt-high fastball. Back-to-back RBI hits by Derrek Lee and Adam Jones chased Gorzelanny in the fifth.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said Saturday that he hoped to get four or five innings and about 90 pitches out of the left-hander, who was making his first start in nearly three weeks after a disabled list stint for elbow inflammation. He got 4 2/3 and 76 pitches but it came with five runs, four earned, and a hole even his red-hot offense couldn’t climb out of.

They tried. Danny Espinosa led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run into the Nationals bullpen in right field, part of a 2-for-4, two-RBI day that also included a double, Michael Morse added his 43rd RBI with a double in the third, and Roger Bernadina hit his third home run in the past four games. It wasn’t nearly enough.

“They just kept tacking on runs as the game went on, and we were never able to get back in it,” said right fielder Jayson Werth. “That was more the story today.”

As was the end of the winning streak that was tied for the second longest in team history. They didn’t reach their short-term goal of .500 on Sunday. They lost doing exactly what they’d been so good at avoiding the past few weeks, and yet they still ended the day as one of the hottest teams in baseball.

“It’s been a good stretch,” Riggleman said. “As I’ve said, from day one, I thought we played really good baseball and didn’t win some games because we hadn’t gotten on track offensively, but we put things together there for a couple weeks.

“We certainly would have liked to have gotten out of there today with a win and had the off day [Monday], but you just have to crank it back up Tuesday and see if we can get it going again.”

• Amanda Comak can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com.

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