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WSH@COL: Herrera smacks a solo homer in the sixth

DENVER -- Sometime before a sweltering and strange Tuesday ticked into Wednesday, Rockies left-handed rookie pitcher Christian Friedrich planned to pull out his notebook, examine the bad and see why maybe it won't be so bad next time.

Right-handed relief pitcher Guillermo Moscoso knew there was no way to judge his work as anything other than terrible. Before the night was over, he comforted himself with the belief that he's been good before and will be again.

The ERA of, statistically, the worst pitching staff in baseball spiked even higher, thanks to a maddening 12-5 loss to the Nationals before a crowd of 36,110 that had little to do except unleash its growing surliness on a team that has lost eight of its 11 home games this month.

It came on the day that 10-year pitching coach Bob Apodaca stepped down and took a front-office job after working all season to fix a staff that saw baseball's highest ERA rise to 5.38. The Rockies are replacing Apodaca with co-pitching coaches Bo McLaughlin (up from Triple-A Colorado springs) and Jim Wright (the bullpen coach).

But Tuesday proved that no fix will be quick.

Friedrich (4-5) yielded four runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, and Moscoso gave up eight hits and a career-high eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.

They were the main victims of a Nationals offense that lashed out 21 hits -- tied for most since the franchise moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005. The National League East-leading Nationals (42-30) also drilled out a Washington-record 11 extra-base hits.

So Friedrich will study his work, figuring out which misfortunes were products of Coors Field -- like Adam LaRoche's second-inning home run and Michael Morse's two-run double in the third -- and which were mistakes that can help him in the future.

The Rockies had come back from a 3-0 deficit to tie it in the bottom of the third, but Friedrich left pitches over the plate for a two-out Jesus Flores double and served up Gonzalez's single to fall behind 4-3 in the fourth.

"Every day, if I'm not learning, I'm not getting better, I'm getting worse," said Friedrich, who threw strikes on 52 of his 70 pitches. "I'll take a lot of positives, and take the negatives and turn them into positives."

Manager Jim Tracy thought Friedrich was better than his stats.

"He was very aggressive with his fastball," Tracy said. "He was throwing good strikes with his fastball. He threw some terrific breaking pitches to Bryce Harper. He did a credible job tonight."

Moscoso will chalk it up to a colossally bad night after four straight scoreless relief outings.

"It's frustrating when that happens; I had been throwing the ball really well," Moscoso said. "Then I got into the game and tried to keep my team in the game, and I felt like I wasn't making my good pitches. I was trying to pitch backwards, but I got behind the count at times and that's where they got pitches.

"You've got to keep working. I cannot stop."

The Rockies can also file the night under research and development.

Since last Tuesday, the Rockies have been using a four-man starting rotation with a 75-pitch limit per start. Friedrich, who didn't help his cause by giving up a two-out, RBI single to Nationals winning pitcher Gio Gonzalez (10-3) in the third inning, was at 70 pitches with one out and the bases empty in the fifth when manager Jim Tracy went to Moscoso.

It took him 62 pitches to manage five outs, and he served up three home runs. Tyler Moore's third home run of the season accounted for three of the five Nationals runs in the fifth. In the sixth, Ryan Zimmerman hit his fourth homer of the season and LaRoche went deep again to lift his total to 15.

Zimmerman said the park didn't do either team's pitchers any favors.

"The ball carries here, but I think you get some cheap singles, too," he said. "The outfield is so big that they have to play deep. That helps you."

It was the worst-case scenario. The starter was not exactly dominant, but taking him out with the bases empty and having a multi-inning reliever struggle didn't make the system look good.

"We're on this program and have to continue with it," Tracy said after acknowledging that nights like Tuesday reveal flaws in the system.

Truth be told, the Rockies had nights like Tuesday -- adequate hitting, woeful pitching -- under the old pitching plan. In six innings, the Rockies tagged Gonzalez for the most runs (five), matched the most earned runs (four) and knocked the most hits (eight) he had given up in a start this year.

Home runs came from Dexter Fowler, his 10th of the season, and Jonathan Herrera, his third, and All-Star candidate Carlos Gonzalez went 2-for-3 with a double.

But the offense went wasted.

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