Lost Weekend For Nats In Florida

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, April 21, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

Miami, FL--The Washington Nationals were outplayed by the Florida Marlins on Saturday and Sunday, losing the final two games of the three-game series, by scores of 6-5 on Saturday and 6-1 on Sunday. The Nationals have now lost 14 of their last 16 games and own the worst record in Major League Baseball.

Saturday's game was not only painful, but disheartening as well. The Marlins led 5-3 going into the ninth inning, but the Nats scrambled to tie the score at five against Florida closer Kevin Gregg. Cristian Guzman led off and reached on shortstop Hanley Ramirez's error. After Ryan Zimmerman popped out, Nick Johnson walked. Much-maligned Austin Kearns then drilled a single to right, scoring Guzman and pinch-runner Willie Harris to even the score.

But the lead would be short-lived. In the bottom of the ninth, Saul Rivera walked Dan Uggla to lead off. Uggla took second on a ground out and the Nats walked Josh Willingham to set up the force play. There would be no force, however, as Wes Helms deposited the second pitch he saw from Rivera safely into center to score the game-winner.

Shawn Hill made his first start of the season for the Nats, allowing four earned runs in five innings, giving up eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

On Sunday, the Nats batters were shut down completely by Marlins starter Scott Olson, Hanley Ramirez hit two home runs and sloppy play dominated, as the Nats committed two more errors and a wild pitch that allowed two runs to score.

Olson threw seven strong innings, allowing only one earned run on three hits and two walks. He struck out only three, but kept the Nationals off-balance all day. Olson extended his career record over the Nats to 3-0, with a .130 batting average against. Repeating a now-familiar refrain, Manager Manny Acta said, "We're better than we're playing right now. Our starters have been giving us enough chances, but it's not easy to win 1-0." The Nationals could only muster five hits on the day, their lone run coming on Austin Kearns' second home run of the season. Only once in the game did the Nats have more than one base runner in the same inning.

After one-eighth of the season, the puny batting averages of the regulars in the line-up and the gory overall batting numbers tell the story for this struggling team right now. Washington is hitting .219 as a team, last in Major League Baseball. They are 27th in runs scored, 28th in on base percentage, 24th in home runs and 26th in stolen bases.

Individually, only two batters are hitting above .260: Cristian Guzman at .304 and Lastings Milledge at .280. Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .215/.244/.342. Austin Kearns is .212/.350/.333. Wily Mo Pena is 3-for-26 since returning from the disabled list. Paul LoDuca, before going on the DL, was hitting .200/.317/.286. And the list goes on.

As for the pitching, the team's 4.73 ERA places them at 26th in the majors. But a lot of that blame can be placed on the bullpen, the supposed "strength" of this staff. The starters have been pretty decent, led by Tim Redding (3-1, 3.27) and Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.38). But Jon Rauch, Saul Rivera and Joel Hanrahan's ERAs are all above 5.50.

The upcoming schedule provides no relief either. This week features two two-game series against the Braves and Mets, then a three-game weekend series against the Chicago Cubs. The Nats are scheduled to face Tim Hudson, John Smoltz and Johan Santana in their next three match-ups.

Lost Weekend For Nats In Florida also posted at DC Sports Box