WASHINGTON -- Jesus Guzman has not enjoyed much of an opportunity to celebrate his home runs this season. That trend continued on Saturday afternoon, as the Padres fell, 5-4, to the Nationals, extending their season-high losing streak to eight games.
Guzman gave the Padres a 4-3 lead with his three-run home run in the sixth inning, but each of his five homers have come in a loss. For the fourth time, the San Diego bullpen could not hang on after Guzman either tied the game or put the Padres ahead in the late innings.
"Big three-run homer for us today, gave us the lead, so he's doing his part," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It takes everybody to do their thing. … Right now, there's a lot of guys doing their part and a couple guys who are having a few hiccups, and it's not out of a lack of effort. Our group is busting their butt. It's great every day. They're really getting after it. This is a tough one, but good for Guzi. Good for a few other guys, and we'll hang in there."
San Diego fell to 1-8 on its 10-game road trip, which concludes on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park. This is the club's longest losing streak since it dropped nine in a row from Aug. 24-Sept. 3, 2011. Even worse, starting catcher Yasmani Grandal injured his right knee on a play at the plate and will have to go on the disabled list.
"It's not fun," Padres starting pitcher Jason Marquis said. "Especially after the hole we dug early, we put ourselves in a good position to stay in it. Fortunately we're in the right division right now where we're not too far out. Hopefully we can get this turned around quickly and get back in the win column and go home where we've been playing some good baseball."
The Padres lost the game in the seventh, when three relievers combined to give up two runs.
With one out, Denard Span and Ian Desmond hit consecutive singles against Nick Vincent. Left-hander Joe Thatcher came in to face Bryce Harper and uncorked a wild pitch that moved runners to second and third. Harper then hit the game-tying sacrifice fly to left field before Black turned to righty Luke Gregerson. The next batter, Ryan Zimmerman, dumped a soft single into right field to score Desmond from second with the go-ahead run.
That spoiled Marquis' potential 10th win, as well as another shot at a memorable homer for Guzman. On May 11 at Tampa Bay, he tied the game in the seventh inning with a pinch-hit grand slam, but the Padres lost on Evan Longoria's walk-off homer in the ninth. On June 18, Guzman's pinch-hit two-run shot against the Giants provided a 4-3 lead in the eighth, then the Giants scored two to win. A day later, his solo shot in the seventh put the Padres in front 2-1, but San Francisco rallied once again.
Guzman contrasted those disappointments with the Padres' game against the Cardinals on May 20, when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run. That time, San Diego won.
"This game's weird," Guzman said. "I've hit three, four homers for the lead, and we've lost. We win the game from St. Louis at home where I get a hit by pitch and we win the game. This game's weird. The only thing right now is keep fighting. Keep fighting, keep playing hard and see what happens."
Things started going wrong early for the Padres, who stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings. In the third, Anthony Rendon slid into Grandal's right leg on a force play at home. Grandal held on for the out but had to leave, replaced by Nick Hundley.
The next batter, Harper, drew a bases-loaded walk from Marquis that gave Washington a 1-0 lead. The Nationals also got a home run from Adam LaRoche and an RBI single from Harper, while Marquis got the Padres on the board with an RBI groundout in the fifth. Washington led 3-1 through five innings, with All-Star right-hander Jordan Zimmermann on the mound.
Carlos Quentin and Chase Headley hit one-out singles in the sixth, and Nationals manager Davey Johnson decided to replace Zimmermann with righty Ross Ohlendorf. Guzman turned on an inside fastball and blasted it over the left-field wall for the Padres' first lead.
Marquis overcame humid 90-degree weather to turn in a quality start in his first outing against the Nationals since the club traded him to the D-backs in 2011. He went six innings, giving up three runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out three. The veteran righty left with the lead, but the bullpen could not get him his 10th victory.
"Jason battled. Same with Zimmermann on the other side," Black said. "It was a very hot day. … Jason, he pitched his butt off, gave us six good innings, held them down. Was stressed a couple times, made some pitches. He did his part. There's no doubt about it. Again, we've seen this out of Jason all year. He's a battler. He's a competitor. That shouldn't surprise anyone how he did today."
The Padres mounted a rally against Nationals closer Rafael Soriano in the ninth, after Logan Forsythe and Hundley singled with one out. Pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay hit a grounder that deflected off Soriano and bounced to the second baseman Rendon, whose throw narrowly beat a sliding Kotsay. First baseman LaRoche then dove to his right to stab Everth Cabrera's grounder, flipping to Soriano for the final out.
"Early on during the season, getting used to the way Soriano goes about closing games, it's not blow you away," Desmond said. "He's a guy who pitches to contact and now it's like you think he's among the best closers in the game right now. So whatever it may look like, people's hearts may be beating, but we know what we've got out there, and we've just got to do our job."
Quentin and Guzman both had two hits for San Diego, and Guzman is 9-for-18 over his past five games.