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LAA@WSH: Angels lose on LaRoche's walk-off hit

WASHINGTON -- Most of the Angels were in dress shirts and slacks, finishing their meals or packing their bags as clubhouse attendants dashed through the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, cleaning spikes, loading bags and collecting tips late into Wednesday night.

Tucked away in a corner, head down, staring into his locker and still in full uniform, sat Ernesto Frieri, a half-hour removed from the meltdown that evaporated a three-run lead and prevented a three-game sweep.

"Today," the Angels' closer said later, "it was a mess."

Frieri had given up his fifth home run in 10 appearances, courtesy of a leadoff shot by Jose Lobaton, blown his second save on a game-tying two-run double by Jayson Werth, and watched as Fernando Salas surrendered the walk-off single to Adam LaRoche that handed the Angels a bitter, 5-4 defeat.

Frieri's ERA is now 9.35 through 8 2/3 innings -- but Angels manager Mike Scioscia is not pondering a change at closer.

At least not yet.

"It's in him," Scioscia said of Frieri. "We just need to get him a little more consistent."

Frieri gave up back-to-back ninth-inning homers on April 2, blew a one-run lead by giving up a two-run, ninth-inning homer to A's catcher John Jaso on April 14, and gave up a leadoff homer to the Nationals' Ian Desmond on Monday night, just before recording the next three outs to maintain a two-run lead and lock down the save.

On Wednesday, with the Angels three outs away from their first sweep in the nation's capital since 1962, and their first winning record since Opening Day 2013, Frieri could do nothing right.

"It [stinks], because we're playing really good baseball," he said. "I'm mad at myself, because I keep missing pitches, and if I keep doing that, I'm going to keep getting hurt like that. I don't know, man. I'm fighting, I'm trying to get better. But if I don't make my pitch, I'm going to get hurt."

Jered Weaver pitched six innings of one-run ball for the second straight time, lowering his ERA from 5.79 to 4.11 in that span. And Mike Trout turned in a couple of key plays against Bryce Harper, taking away at least one RBI from the Nationals' phenom with a diving catch in the first, then beating Harper's throw home while scoring all the way from first on Albert Pujols' double in the sixth.

Erick Aybar then added an RBI single, David Freese scored on a wild pitch, Trout drove in a ninth-inning run, and Michael Kohn and Joe Smith locked it down in the seventh and eighth, paving the way for Frieri to record the final three outs.

On 0-2, Lobaton roped a down-the-middle fastball over the right-field fence to cut the Nats' deficit to two.

After a strikeout of pinch-hitter Zach Walters, Denard Span got a chest-high, 1-2 fastball and smoked a base hit up the middle.

On 3-2, Frieri just missed with a fastball outside, walking Anthony Rendon to put two on with one out for Werth.

Frieri missed badly with the first three fastballs, then grooved one right down the middle on 3-0, and Werth lined it down the left-field line, watched it ricochet off the fence in left field, and motored to second as the two tying runs crossed home plate.

Frieri wasn't surprised Werth took a hack on 3-0.

"I knew that he was going to swing," Frieri said. "He's a power guy. You have to try to keep the ball down, but I still missed, right down the middle."

"It's one of those situations where if you hit into a double play right there, it's probably the worst play you have ever seen," Werth said. "If you get a hit, it's the best. I'm glad it worked out."

Frieri could only watch as Salas came out of the bullpen and fired the first-pitch fastball to LaRoche that landed in shallow left-center field and ended the game. And afterward, Weaver could only stew.

"I'll have five days," Weaver said. "That's what [stinks] about being a starting pitcher. You can't come back the next day and redeem yourself and pick up that win. It'll be a tough one for five days, but I'll go back out there and keep battling and keep competing like I do. Hopefully, the chips fall in place."

The Angels boarded a late-night train from Union Station in Washington to Penn Station in New York, where they'll enjoy an off-day on Thursday before starting a three-game weekend series against the Yankees to finish off a three-city road trip.

And during that time, Scioscia will ponder the ninth inning, and perhaps chalk up recent history.

Last year, when Frieri gave up 12 runs in a 4 2/3-inning stretch that spanned from July 23 to Aug. 6, Scioscia changed it up in the ninth, put Frieri in less stressful situations, reinserted him later, and watched as he posted a 1.66 ERA in 19 outings the rest of the way.

History may repeat itself soon.

"I can't control the manager's decision," Frieri said. "I'm struggling right now. I'm honest. Everybody knows that. It's not just about the closer's role. It's about doing my job, going out there and competing and helping the team win some games. Like I said, I'm going to keep working, I'm going to keep getting better. If they give me the chance to go out there and compete, I'm going to try to do my best. But I won't quit."

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