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Cordero notches major league-leading 38th save

DENVER (AP) -- Staked to a three-run lead before he took the
mound for the first time, Esteban Loaiza should have felt
comfortable.

Not at Coors Field. He's pitched there too many times to know he
can't let up.

Loaiza stayed focused at the hitter-friendly park, pitching into
the seven inning for his first win in a month, and Jose Guillen hit
a two-run single in the first inning to help the Washington
Nationals hold off the Colorado Rockies 4-2 Friday night.

"We are in Colorado and the ball flies," Loaiza said. "I had
two runners on a couple of times and you know that with one swing
they could tie up the ballgame. I just try to do everything
possible to keep the ball low and do my job and get it in play and
get groundballs."

He did and it's a good thing for the Nationals.

Washington had just seven hits, with only four coming after the
first inning. What got the Nationals through was solid pitching.

Loaiza (7-8) did his part, pitching well early and escaping of
couple of jams late. Luis Ayala bailed Loaiza out of a bases-loaded
jam in the seventh inning, and Chad Cordero worked a perfect ninth
for his major league-leading 38th save in 42 chances.

The result was the Nationals' fourth win in 16 road games,
keeping them three games behind Houston in the NL wild-card race

"It was a great win, but we've got to come out tomorrow and
win," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

Loaiza entered the game with a 7.77 ERA in four career starts at
Coors Field, but was sharp early in this one. He gave up an RBI
single to Wright in the second inning before retiring 11 of the
next 12 batters, then got Jorge Piedra to pop out and Garrett
Atkins on a soft grounder with runners at first and third in the
sixth inning.

Loaiza allowed a run and five hits in 6 1/3 innings to win for
the first time since July 16 against Milwaukee.

"He had great command of his fastball," Rockies manager Clint
Hurdle said. "He could have hit a gnat on its rear end with his
fastball."

Colorado still had its chances.

The Rockies loaded the bases with one out in the seventh to
chase Loaiza, but Ayala got Luis Gonzalez and Todd Helton to both
pop out to third to end the inning.

Piedra cut Washington's lead to 4-2 with a solo homer off Ayala
in the eighth, and Atkins followed with a single to center. But
Joey Eischen replaced Ayala and ended that threat, getting J.D.
Closser to hit into an inning-ending double play to set the stage
for Cordero in the ninth.

"The bullpen is outstanding," Loaiza said. "We have great
pitching from starters to bullpen, and the only thing we have been
struggling with is the hitting."

So have the Rockies.

Helton had a pair of doubles and made a spectacular diving stop
to rob Brian Schneider of extra bases in the eighth inning, and
Piedra hit his third homer for Colorado. It still wasn't enough for
the Rockies, who had seven hits and were 1-for-10 with runners in
scoring position to lose for the third time in four games.

"We had so many chances," Hurdle said. "All of these
situational outs. A sacrifice fly in two situations and it would
have been a tie ballgame going into the ninth. We weren't able to
execute. Very poor."

It didn't help that Jamey Wright (6-13) put the Rockies in a
hole right from the start. The right-hander walked leadoff hitter
Brandon Watson, gave up a single to Jose Vidro, then Nick Johnson
hit a run-scoring double. Guillen followed with a two-run double,
putting Colorado down 3-0 before Wright could get an out.

Of course, falling behind early is nothing new for the Rockies.
They gave up six first-inning runs in an 11-4 loss to Pittsburgh on
Thursday and have been outscored 97-46 in the opening frame this
season, worst in the majors.

"That first inning keeps giving us a headache," Hurdle said.
"We've tried all different things. Pitched more, pitched less, do
something. It didn't work."

Wright at least limited the damage after that, giving up a run
in the fourth inning on Schneider's RBI double and four more hits.
He left with one out in the sixth inning after allowing four runs
and seven hits.

What got Wright in trouble was his command. He started three
innings with a walk and three of the five batters he walked ended
up scoring. Wright, who threw 43 balls in 94 pitches, is 1-5 with a
7.71 ERA in his last seven starts.

Game notes
Washington SS Cristian Guzman returned after missing two
games with an abscessed molar. He finished 1-for-4. ... Wright made
his 128th start for the Rockies, one behind Pedro Astacio's team
record. ... Closser threw out Watson in the fourth inning, just the
third runner he's caught in 47 attempts.