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Jennings pitches Rockies past Nationals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Colorado Rockies had lost 13 of 18 games
and six straight road series when they arrived in Washington. The
Nationals, meanwhile, were in the midst of a season-best 17-7 run.

How quickly fortunes can change in baseball.

Jason Jennings threw eight strong innings, Brad Hawpe homered
and drove in four runs, and Colorado completed a four-game sweep of
Washington with an 8-1 victory Thursday.

"This club created a little bit of its own baggage at the
beginning of last season, and then was able to kind of reset their
minds in the second half. We've had some turbulence this year,"
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "They show up good every day,
they don't get too high, they don't get too low. They're happy, but
we also expect to win."

The loss dropped the Nationals to a season-worst 13½ games out
of first place in the NL East, and after the game they fired John
Wetteland as bullpen coach, offering him another job in the
organization.

In another sign of where things stand for the Nationals as the
New York Yankees arrive for a three-game series, manager Frank
Robinson held a closed-door clubhouse meeting with his players.

"The message was: We worked very hard for 3½ weeks to get
ourselves straightened out ... and in four days, we fell right back
into that hole," Robinson said.

It was the franchise's first four-game sweep since they were the
Expos and dropped four in a row at San Diego from April 26-29,
2004.

"We played like a minor league team, so everybody's upset, not
only Frank," said Alfonso Soriano, who went 0-for-5 Thursday.

He failed to homer against the Rockies, ending an 11-series
streak with at least one homer. Soriano was hardly the only
Nationals player who had problems against Jennings (5-6), who
changed speeds and located well.

Hurdle's description: "Hard and soft, in and out, up and
down."

Jennings shut out Washington until the seventh, when third
baseman Garrett Atkins' two-base error allowed an unearned run to
score. Otherwise, Jennings was dominant, scattering six hits and
two walks, along with six strikeouts, before leaving after 120
pitches.

Washington didn't even get a runner to third or manage to put
together more than one hit in an inning off Jennings until the
sixth.

Hawpe hit a two-run homer in the second and a two-run single in
the seventh off Livan Hernandez (5-7).

The right-hander gave up six runs -- five earned -- on eight hits
and five walks in 6 2/3 innings. He threw a season-high 138
pitches, left in the game because Washington's bullpen was in
tatters after relievers worked 11 2/3 innings in the series' first
three games.

"Baseball is like that. You've got to understand you're not
going to be perfect every day," Hernandez said.

Colorado's Todd Helton had a single, a double and three walks,
reaching base in nine straight plate appearances over two games.
No. 2 hitter Cory Sullivan was credited with three sacrifices,
giving him a major league-record seven over two games; he tied the
big league mark with four on Wednesday night.

"Helton's our top dog. When he's hitting the ball well, it
helps everybody out," said Hawpe, whose 12th homer of the season
was the 16th Hernandez has allowed.

So the Rockies leave with the third four-game road sweep in
franchise history and first since Aug. 11-14, 2000, at Montreal, of
all places.

"We knew we were going to face a tough pitcher, a guy you're
going to have to swing the bat to beat. Our guys were able to stay
on him, make him get in the zone," Hurdle said. "It's a nice
feeling to get out of here with four wins."

Game notes
Helton is hitting .417 (95-for-228) for his career against
the Expos-Nationals. ... Washington's Robert Fick was ejected by
plate umpire Brian Gorman after arguing when he struck out in the
eighth. ... Atkins has a hit in 14 consecutive games. ... Colorado
outscored Washington 35-14 in the series. ... Washington's Brendan
Harris made his first major league start at shortstop; his throwing
error in the fifth led to an unearned run.