Nationals' 1-run skid reaches 13 in defeat


WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals have shuffled their lineups, contemplated trades.

Yesterday, manager Frank Robinson convened a pre-game team meeting that he said was to "clear the air" and get players more focused.

Then the Nationals went out and nevertheless lost their 13th straight one-run game, a 3-2 decision to the San Diego Padres in which Washington managed five hits.

Instead of pre-game meetings, maybe the Nationals need a collective hug, or an amulet, or an exorcist. Anything to reverse the red tide engulfing their season and threatening to take them out of wild-card contention if things get much worse.

Robinson said he wasn't expecting instant results from the nearly two-hour meeting. The manager said he thinks allowing the players to vent -- he said they did most of the talking -- will help the club even if the results aren't evident right away.

"It's something that needed to be done," said outfielder Brad Wilkerson.

The manager described the meeting as rare.

"I can't remember the last time I played that card," said Robinson, 69, who has also managed the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants and Orioles.

"They [the players] talked to the staff about anything they wanted to bring up," he said.

Robinson said the players also talked to each other.

"Some things that came up were tough. It was like tough love. A lot of things were said by a lot of people," he said.

Robinson declined to be more specific. It is known that some players -- notably ace pitcher Livan Hernandez -- have voiced frustration over losing and injuries, and that it has been difficult for players to cope with frequently changing lineups. The team has tinkered with the lineup to try to get more run production and because the team has dressed 47 players this year -- tops in the majors -- largely due to injury.

Like other players, Vinny Castilla declined to be specific about what was discussed, but said the meeting helped the team realize its common -- not individual -- goals. "We have to stay together," Castilla said.

Trailing 3-2 in the seventh, the Nationals went meekly. They couldn't get a runner past first in the final three innings.

From June 3 to July 5, the Nationals won 12 consecutive one-run games. That seems like a long time ago for the only team ever to win as many as 12 straight one-run games and lose just as many single-run contests in the same season.

The Padres took their first lead in the seventh.

With the game tied at 2, Eric Young doubled, chasing starter Ryan Drese (3-5), and scored with one out on Joe Randa's double to the wall in left.

The Nationals had made it 1-0 after Cristian Guzman led off the third with a double for the second hit off starter Pedro Astacio (1-2). Guzman moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jose Vidro's one-out grounder to second.

The Padres tied it in the fourth. Robert Fick and Brian Giles singled and advanced on a sacrifice. Fick scored on Mark Loretta's sacrifice fly.

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