WASHINGTON - It was a wild night at RFK Stadium. And not just the game. Livan Hernandez, too.
Washington's starter, the most reliable pitcher in the Nationals' rotation, threw 104 pitches, and 100 of them didn't hit anybody. But the four that did allowed Hernandez to set a club record - and match a modern major league mark - for most hit batters by a single pitcher in a game.
The errant pitches contributed to a 3-2 loss to the last- place Colorado Rockies, who took two of three games from the Nationals.
Washington, which entered the game with baseball's best home winning percentage, dropped its fourth series in a row and second in a row at RFK.
"We're not on top of our game right now." Washington manager Frank Robinson said.
It was an unusual outing for Hernandez. The last time a pitcher hit four batters was 2001 when Pedro Astacio of the Rockies did it against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Before last night's game, the Nationals had won 15 of Hernandez's 20 starts, and he led the league in innings pitched.
On at least one of Hernandez's hit batters, Robinson argued that the batter hadn't moved to evade the pitch. "The rule says you have to make an attempt to get out of the way." the manager said.
Hernandez surrendered only three runs in seven innings, but his wildness cost the Nationals.
With Washington ahead 2-1 in the sixth, Hernandez hit leadoff hitter Desi Relaford. J.D. Closser followed with a home run to right - just the 46th homer this season at RFK, fewest in the majors by far.
Trailing 3-2, Washington put runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings but could not score.
Colorado reliever Brian Fuentes surrendered a two-out double in the ninth to Ryan Church, who took third on a wild pitch. After Carlos Baerga was hit by a pitch, pinch hitter Vinny Castilla lined to short to end the game.
Even with Hernandez's occasional troubles, Washington had seemed in command.
By the fourth inning, the Nationals had shut out the Rockies for 13 straight innings extending back to the previous game.
But when is life ever easy for a club that seems to relish putting itself in difficult straits and then battling back?
Robinson said his hitters seemed to be pressing in clutch situations. "We"re trying too hard." he said.
The Nats jumped on top immediately in the first when leadoff hitter Jamey Carroll singled and scored on Jose Vidro's double to the gap in right center. Vidro may have cost the Nats a run when he was tagged out trying for third because the next batter, Brad Wilkerson, singled to right.
"You've got to be certain with nobody out that you can make it to third." Robinson said.
The Nationals made it 2-0 on Carroll's sacrifice fly in the third.
NOTE: It was the second night in a row the Nationals went with a new lineup that had utility man Carroll batting leadoff instead of first baseman Brad Wilkerson, who hit third. Longtime starting shortstop Cristian Guzman was on the bench again, and the club announced yesterday that infielder Wil Cordero, who was 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position, was being designated for assignment. The club also said it had claimed outfielder Kenny Kelly off waivers from Cincinnati - a move that general manager Jim Bowden said "brings some speed to the table."