The Washington Nationals had a long day, dropping two games to the Colorado Rockies they very well could have won.

Bad relief pitching did the Nats in in game one.  In game two, it was the defense.

In the bottom of the seventh of the nightcap, with the game tied at three, shoddy defense cost the Nats a run--and the game.

Sean Burnett entered his second inning of work.  Backup catcher Paul Phillips, batting less than .200--in the majors and Triple-A this season--reached on an infield single.  He was sacrificed to second, but the out at first was a gift call. 

Dexter Fowler grounded to Adam Dunn at first, but Dunn's throw was high, making Cristian Guzman--covering from second--jump at the bag.  Replays showed Guzman was definitely off the bag, and for that matter, Fowler probably beat the throw.  But the first base umpire called Fowler out.

Regardless, the runner moved up. 

The next batter, Carlos Gonzalez, flied out to deep center and Phillips moved up another 90 feet, which brought up outfielder Seth Smith with two outs.

Smith sent a 3-2 pitch up the middle that Burnett got his glove on and slowed down, and shortstop Ian Desmond ranged far to his left to pick up.  He threw against his body and bounced a throw to Dunn at first that Dunn just flat dropped.

Desmond was charged with the error, but it was Dunn's physical mistake that cost the Nats at first base.

Starter Luis Atilano wasn't particularly sharp--he went five innings, giving up three earned on four hits and four walks.  But he departed in a tied game and turned it over to the bullpen.

In the first game of Saturday's day-night double-header, the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez barely outdueled Livan Hernandez, and Colorado put the exclamation point on the win with a three-run eighth inning against Brian Bruney, as the Rockies knocked off the Nats 6-2 before 29,111 at Coors Field.

The Nats came into the bottom of the eighth trailing 3-2, and Bruney blew the game up.  He walked the first two batters he faced, Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki.  Jason Giambi rolled over on a slider to force Tulowitzki and put runners at first and third, then Bruney got catcher Miguel Olivo to pop up to second.

But as a tightrope walker will often do, Bruney fell.

His first pitch to Rockies 3B Ian Stewart was laced to right field for a double, scoring Hawpe.  His next pitch, to 2B Clint Barmes, was a clean single to center that drove in Giambi and Stewart.

That's all the Rockies needed to secure the win.

For the season, Bruney has allowed 15 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings and has walked 20 batters.

Manager Jim Riggleman was reluctant to bring in his most effective relievers, Tyler Walker, Tyler Clippard, or Matt Capps, in a game his team was trailing.  He paid dearly for the decision.

"We have to talk about it, because you have to be able to use your guys," Riggleman told reporters after the game. "If you are down in the game -- I look for one inning there -- you have to hold the fort there. The walks are hurting him, and he has to find a way to make an adjustment. If it wasn't a doubleheader day, we would handle things differently."

Jimenez (W, 7-1, 1.12) was good, but less dominant than when he beat the Nats two weeks ago at Nats Park.  He went eight innings, allowing seven hits and one walk, striking out five.  He threw 70 of his 115 pitches for strikes. 

The same could be said of his opponent, Livan Hernandez (L, 4-2, 1.46).  Entering the game with an ERA less than 1.00, he gave up three earned runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out just three.  He gave up two home runs, one each to Giambi and Olivo.

In the finale of the four-game series on Sunday, Scott Olsen (2-1) faces Jeff Francis, making his first appearance since 2008.

NATS NOTES:  Dunn homered in both games, the first time in his career he had homered in both games of a double-header.

Roger Bernadina had two hits and drove in two in the nightcap.

Ryan Zimmerman went 5-for-8 on the day.