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Nats solve curve before Floyd does


WASHINGTON - What happened to Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Gavin Floyd in yesterday's start against the Washington Nationals was a microcosm of the former Mount St. Joseph star's season.

Floyd gave up three runs on six hits in six innings as Washington handed the Phillies a 6-1 loss before 32,251 at RFK Stadium. He struck out six and walked one but couldn't find his curveball in the first few innings, hit two batters and nearly beaned a few others. The 22-year old gave up a three-run homer to Brian Schneider in the second inning but soon found his curve and buckled several batters' knees with it while blanking the Nationals after that.

In the end, Floyd (1-2) had an up-and-down day but battled his way through and gave the Phillies the six innings that manager Charlie Manuel had hoped to get. After Saturday's 12-inning loss, Manuel wanted Floyd, who was starting for sore-shouldered Robinson Tejeda, to help give the bullpen a break.

"How he did it was not real pretty, but at the same time ... after the homer, he pitched OK for a kid - he did OK," Manuel said. "We needed him to get some innings. Gavin Floyd, he's a young guy, he's getting experience. He's going to be fine. His day's coming."

Floyd and the Phillies thought his day might be here at the start of the season. He was Philadelphia's No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft (fourth overall) and pitched strongly through three years in the minors, compiling a 2.94 ERA in 76 games. The 6-foot-4 right-hander made it to the Phillies at the end of 2004, went 2-0 and earned a roster spot this year.

That's when the problems began. Floyd beat the St. Louis Cardinals with a masterful seven-inning performance in his first start but began having problems throwing his curve. The Atlanta Braves reached him for eight runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings in the next start. Floyd had similar results in his next two appearances out of the bullpen and headed back to the minors with a 1-1 record and a 14.14 ERA.

But the troubles continued at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He lost his first four starts and gave up 30 hits and 20 runs in 18 2/3 innings. Floyd pitched better at times and said that Scranton pitching coach Rod Nichols and roving instructor Johnny Podres - of Brooklyn Dodgers fame - began to help him slowly turn things around and finished 6-9 with an ERA of 6.16.

"It was very tough because I couldn't figure out what was going on," Floyd said Saturday, the day after the Phillies called him up. "I would struggle, struggle, struggle. Now I'll be able to make adjustments when I need to, and I think I'm better for it."

Floyd talked with pitching coach Rich Dubee after giving up Schneider's homer and seemed to settle down.

"I was probably trying to overdo my curveball," Floyd said. "I realized that and tried to make an adjustment. I made [the] adjustment, and it started working for me."

Third baseman David Bell was impressed at how Floyd battled through the trouble.

"I thought he threw great," Bell said. "He gave up the one [bad] pitch for the home run, and he came back and shut them down from there and really gave us an opportunity to get back in the game, and I think that says a lot about him."

Washington starter Esteban Loaiza (10-10) was Philadelphia's biggest problem. He allowed one run on four hits and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts in eight innings to pull the Nationals (71-66) within two games of wild-card leader Philadelphia (73-64).

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