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Lowly Rockies keep Nationals on skids, 5-4


WASHINGTON - It was a game in which Washington's starting pitcher departed in the third inning with dehydration and dizziness.

But it was the Nationals who were seeking afterward to regain their footing after staggering to their ninth loss in 12 games.

Last night's 5-4 loss to the last-place Colorado Rockies was the product of a key error, continued scoring problems and bizarrely bad luck -- just the sort of nasty karma that once seemed to routinely go the team's way, particularly at home.

It was a game in which a Colorado pitcher threw a pitch behind a batter and still managed to record an out. It was a game in which a flying piece of shattered bat allowed a Colorado hitter to reach base.

Despite their misfortunes, the Nationals found themselves in a 4-4 tie in the ninth. That's when they made a game-losing play they couldn't blame on fate - only on themselves.

Pinch hitter Eddy Garabito opened the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second. With two outs, closer Chad Cordero seemed to get out of the inning when Aaron Miles hit a grounder to Vinny Castilla at third.

But the ball skipped past Castilla, allowing what became the winning run.

"I missed the ball. Period," Castilla said. "We were getting those breaks before. They're against us right now."

Castilla was also victimized in the sixth. In a 2-2 game, he saw Eric Byrnes' ground ball and his broken bat approach simultaneously. Castilla was unable to make a play and the Rockies scored two runs in the inning.

Washington's frustrations continued in the bottom of the ninth. Leadoff hitter Jose Vidro was ejected after slamming his batting helmet to the ground while arguing a called third strike.

The Nationals then put runners on first and second, only to see Jamey Carroll ground into a game-ending double play.

Washington's worst luck may have been losing starter Tony Armas. The pitcher, who entered the game 3-0 at RFK Stadium with a 2.78 ERA, left the game with no outs in the third after throwing two balls to Colorado starter Byung Hyun Kim. Joey Eischen relieved and surrendered two runs in three innings.

Despite their misfortunes, the Nationals battled back.

Trailing 4-2, the Nationals tied it after loading the bases with one out in the seventh off reliever Mike DeJean. Ryan Church's deep sacrifice fly scored one run and a second run scored when center fielder Cory Sullivan threw wildly to third on the play.

The Rockies made it 1-0 in the first on Miles' one-out single, a walk and Byrnes' RBI single.

The Nationals took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first.

But the Nationals fell victim to a bizarre play in the fourth that prevented them from expanding their lead. Brian Schneider, who matched a career high with four hits, singled with one out, Cristian Guzman walked and Joey Eischen's sacrifice in front of the plate was fumbled by Kim, loading the bases.

Kim then threw a pitch behind the next hitter, Brad Wilkerson. But the ball caromed off the backstop right to catcher Danny Ardoin, who threw out Schneider racing back to third.

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