Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals could not get the offense going, nor snap their losing streak – now at three games – as they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates on the road, 4-2.
Washington is now 18-12 on the season, still in the first place in the National League East; however, they share it with the surging Atlanta Braves, who have one more win and one more loss than the Nats, who are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
The Nationals have had issues with getting runs across the plate, and Wednesday night was no exception in Pittsburgh. The offense only mustered five hits against the Pirates, who lost starting pitcher Erik Bedard only after a frame with back issues. Pittsburgh used five relievers, but even then the Nats couldn’t muster much of an attack. The Nats struck out eleven times against the pitching of the Pirates, and despite earning five walks on the night, they also left ten runners on base.
“You’ve got to make contact,” manager Davey Johnson said after the game. “You can’t drive a run in without making contact.”
They could not help Ross Detwiler (3-2, 2.10) – who started the game for Washington – as he took the loss, going seven innings and allowing three runs on seven hits and no walks, striking out four. He was solid for the most part on Wednesday but a fateful third inning did him in as RBI singles from Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen and Casey McGehee gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.
Washington could have held Pittsburgh to only two runs, but McCutchen’s speed and a slight indecision by Desmond – who perhaps held onto the ball too long after making a backhanded fielding play — may have tipped the scales.
Pittsburgh added another run the bottom of the eighth as McCutchen hit his second home run of the season – a solo shot – off of Washington reliever Craig Stammen.
The Nationals got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning as Xavier Nady plated in Bryce Harper, and in the seventh Chad Tracy hit a sacrifice fly to score Danny Espinosa.
Despite trailing in the final two innings, Washington did have their chances late.
The Nats loaded the bases in the eighth with one out against right-handed reliever Jason Grilli on a Ryan Zimmerman double, an intentional walk to Adam LaRoche and an unintentional walk to pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina. But Danny Espinosa struck out on a 3-2 pitch and Rick Ankiel whiffed in a four-pitch at bat.
Espinosa leads the N.L. with 39 strikeouts.
In the ninth inning, Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan (S, 6) hit Steve Lombardozzi and gave up a double to Ian Desmond with one out, but popped up Bryce Harper (0-for-4, BB, run) and struck out Zimmerman to end the game.
THE GOOD: Ian Desmond went 2-for-5.
THE BAD: All 11 strikeouts in the game were swinging. The Nationals’ approach at the plate is not very good right now.
THE UGLY: Ryan Zimmerman. The No. 3 hitter hasn’t found his groove yet since returning from injury. He went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts and left four on base.
THE STATS: 5 hits, 5 BBs, 11 ks. 1-for-8 with RISP, 10 LOB. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 7:05 at the Pirates. Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.66) faces Kevin Correia (1-2, 3.38).