Nats' 10-game streak is road kill
Loaiza lasts only three-plus innings; bullpen hit, too
ANAHEIM -- Under manager Frank Robinson, the Expos/Nationals have always had problems winning games on the road, and Monday was no different as the Nationals were pounded by the Angels, 11-1, in front of 40,790 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.The loss breaks the Nationals' 10-game winning streak; however, they are still in first-place in the National League East and are one game ahead of the Phillies. It was a night when Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen made his first appearance at Angel Stadium since the Angels suspended him for the last week of the 2004 season and the postseason because of inappropriate conduct following his removal for a pinch-runner on Sept. 25 against the A's. Guillen went 1-for-4 in the game and heard a round of boos every time he stepped up to the plate or caught a fly ball in right field. "I don't think they should boo me. I didn't do anything to the fans here," Guillen said. "I'm just here to play baseball. Whatever the fans do, I don't really care." But it was Guillen's former teammate, Vladimir Guerrero, who stole the show. Guerrero went 4-for-4 with five RBIs. He had RBI singles against right-handers Esteban Loaiza and Sun-woo Kim and a three-run home run against right-hander T.J. Tucker. It was the first time Guerrero has played against the Nationals since becoming a free agent after the 2003 season. He had eight great years in an Expos uniform. "That guy can hit anything, whether it's outside, over his head, anywhere," Guillen said. "Just walk him. That's the best way to make sure that he doesn't hit any balls. He's amazing. If he's not the best [player], then he' is in the top two." Outfielder Brad Wilkerson played with Guerrero for two-plus seasons in Montreal, and Wilkerson knows first-hand the damage Guerrero can cause in a game. "If you put guys on base with him up at the plate, it's going to be a rough night," Wilkerson said. "We just have to do a better job of keeping the guys off bases in front of him and make him hit with nobody on. It's not just him, they have guys in the lineup that can hurt you." The Nationals had a chance to set the tone early in the game against Angels starter Paul Byrd, but couldn't take advantage of the situation. In the first inning, Wilkerson led off with a double to right-center field, But Ryan Church flied out to center field, Guillen struck out looking and Nick Johnson grounded out to Byrd to end the inning. It went downhill after that. Loaiza was the Nationals' starter and he didn't get past the fourth inning. He lasted three-plus innings and gave up five runs on five hits. It didn't help that he pitched with a stiff neck and a sore back. Loaiza has had the injury for the last three days. "I received some treatment after the game. Hopefully, it's nothing serious. I have to prepare for my next outing," Loaiza said. Loaiza couldn't get anybody out in the fourth and in came Kim, who gave up two runs in two innings. Tucker entered the game in the sixth and didn't fare any better than Loaiza and Kim. Tucker gave up four runs in three innings. The Nationals' hitters were stifled against Byrd. He pitched six solid innings and gave up the one run on four hits. The run came on a Guillen single in the top of the sixth inning, scoring Wilkerson. "We didn't take advantage of our first inning to jump on top. The Angels turned it around. They swung the bats well all night," Wilkerson said. The Nationals have lost 11 of their last 14 games on the road. Still, Robinson and Wilkerson believe this team is a much better club than it was the last three seasons and should not be judged based on its past reputation. "We are not the same team. Why would you compare this one to the ones that played the last three years? Those teams would not be where we are right now," Robinson said. Said Wilkerson, "It's tough to play on the road. It's not easy. This is a different ballclub. In my opinion, the Angels are one of the top three or four ball clubs in the Major Leagues. We just have to come ready to play tomorrow and take advantage of our opportunities and we'll be fine. We have to step it up a notch."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.