WASHINGTON -- After the Nationals lost their 10th straight game, manager Manny Acta had a few things to say to his team.
Enjoy a barbeque, spend time with your family. These were some of his suggestions on getting the Nationals back to a winning mindset after Washington's 7-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
At a postgame meeting, Acta reacted to the freefall reaching double digits not by chewing out his struggling players, but by imploring them to focus on family, barbecues and relaxation, anything but baseball, on Monday's scheduled off day.
"They're trying. You just got to keep on being positive with them, bring them back to where they were before," Acta said. "I don't want to lose. Obviously, it's not easy. But the effort, it's there. Guys want to catch the ball, they want to hit the ball, they want to throw strikes. They're just not doing it right now."
It's the longest skid for the Nationals since they moved to Washington before the 2005 season, and the franchise's worst since the Montreal Expos dropped 11 games in a row from June 23-July 4, 1991.
Their longest losing streak in 17 years isn't the only concern for the Washington Nationals, who must now play above .500 for the remainder of the season to avoid the franchise's first 100-loss campaign since 1976.
With 37 regular-season games remaining, Washington will need a decisive turnaround to avoid another unwanted milestone. The Nationals must finish 19-18 to dodge the club's first 100-loss season since the Expos went 55-107 in 1976.
"It ain't always easy and this year has been tough for us. I think it should make you hungrier to come out and play starting Tuesday. ... You never want to be a part of something like (100 losses), but you can't play .500 the rest of the season unless you take care of Tuesday night," first baseman Aaron Boone said.
Added Acta: "What can you do? You can't flip-flop the whole team with another 25 guys. All they can do is give me the effort. This is what we have and this is what we're going to finish the season with. Hopefully, we can get better."
Ian Stewart and Seth Smith hit three-run homers for Colorado and Aaron Cook struggled through five innings for his 15th victory.
Cook (15-8), whose scheduled Thursday start was pushed back because of lower back fatigue and tightness, won for the first time in three August outings. The right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits, walked three, struck out four and averted his first three-game losing streak of the season.
"My back feels fine," said Cook. "I just didn't execute some of my pitches. Got away with some. Guys kept making plays behind (me). When they score some runs, it makes it easier to win."
Brad Hawpe added a solo homer for Colorado, which has won four of five overall after the weekend series sweep. The Rockies have won nine of their last 13 road games.
The Nationals' struggles were a surprise to Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who remembers the same Washington team winning three of four from Colorado at Coors Field earlier this month. In fact, the Nationals swept a doubleheader last Thursday at Coors Field, and haven't won a game since.
"They had a couple of different defining moments where they could have jumped up and changed the momentum of the game," Hurdle said. "It's not like they weren't trying -- 7-2, it's a lot closer ballgame than that."
Washington grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Ronnie Belliard led off with a single, moved to third on Ryan Langerhans' double to left and scored on Pete Orr's grounder to first.
The Rockies, who had a streak of 10 straight games with a home run snapped in a 13-6 victory Saturday night, went ahead for good on Stewart's three-run shot in the fourth. He leads all NL rookies with 27 RBI since the All-Star break.
The Nationals got within 3-2 with one out in the fifth when Emilio Bonifacio walked, Willie Harris singled and Lastings Milledge bounced a ground-rule double into the left-field bullpen.
Perez (5-9) went six innings, giving up three runs -- two earned -- and four hits. He walked four and fanned three.
Hawpe hit his 21st homer off Charlie Manning leading off the eighth. Jesus Colome relieved and hit Chris Iannetta with a pitch, issued a one-out walk to Stewart and then surrendered pinch-hitter Smith's three-run blast.