(Photo by Ian Koski/Nationals Daily News)

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals came into this Sunday afternoon match-up looking to sweep the Milwaukee Brewers.  Unfortunately, Jason Marquis' troubles continued, as he gave up seven runs without recording an out in a 10-run first inning, dooming the Nats to an eventual 11-7 loss before 18,789 at Nats Park.

Marquis, whom the Nationals gave a two-year, $15 million contract, entered play with a 12.96 ERA after two starts against the powerful Philadelphia Phillies.

Manager Jim Riggleman spoke before the game about getting his veteran starter off to a good start in today's game.

But the complete opposite happened.

Brewers' lead-off hitter Rickie Weeks singled, and was followed by base hits by Craig Counsel and Ryan Braun, which brought the first run.

Marquis then hit Prince Fielder, loading the bases.  Casey McGehee walked to force in a run, and Marquis then hit his second batter of the inning, OF Jim Edmonds.  Catcher Gregg Zaun followed with an RBI single, and Marquis' game was over without recording an out.

It's the first time in Nationals history a starter has failed to record an out.

All told:  Seven batters faced, four hits, one walk, two hit batters, seven earned runs.  And no outs.

Riggleman told reporters after the game that Marquis was so disturbed by his performance he went to the indoor cages and continued to throw after being relieved.

"He's really down in the dumps about how he performed out there today," Riggleman said.  "He's trying to find it."

Naturally, the question came up:  Is there someting wrong with him?

Riggleman's answer?  No.  "He's definitely healthy.  That's the first thing I asked after he came out of the game with [pitching coach] Steve McCatty, 'Is he feeling ok' and all that?  He said 'Yeah'."

So if Marquis is not hurt, what then is the problem?

To start, he did not have very good command of his fastball today.  He only walked one, but he left the ball out over the middle of the plate today and up, where Milwaukee's hitters could get good wood on the ball. 

"He's having a hard time throwing strikes," Riggleman explained. "And when does throw a strike he was having a hard time getting it down throwing a quailty strike."

As a sinkerball pitcher, Marquis needs to live in the bottom part of the strike zone, and he could not locate today at all, as the two hit batters would attest to.

Marquis (L, 0-3, 20.52) was brought in to anchor a young pitching staff.  But so far, he's been the weakest link of all.  The next logical question is, if the Nats can't get better performances out of him, what's the next step?

Riggleman indicated that he might try to find a way to change things up for the 31-year old righty, maybe give him an extra day or two of rest.  But he has no plans to skip his turn in the rotation or remove him outright--for now.

"We made a commitment to him over the off-season...It's too early to think about that," the manager said.

After Marquis was lifted, Miguel Batista didn't immediately help matters.  He gave up a run-scoring infield single to Carlos Gomez and a sac fly to the Brewers starter Doug Davis.  He then walked lead-off hitter Weeks before surrendering a grand slam to light-hitting back-up shortstop Craig Counsel.

The Brewers had scored 10 runs before two outs in the top of the first.

Batista settled down though, and gave the Nats five innings without giving up another run.  If there was any saving grace to the day, it was the bullpen that only gave up one run in the eight remaining innings.  After Batista, Tyler Walker went two scoreless, Jesse English gave up one earned on two doubles in his inning, and Brian Bruney struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning.

The Nats hitters tried to claw their way back into this one.

They got one in the second on two doubles by Ivan Rodriguez (3-for-5, 2 runs, RBI) and Adam Kennedy to kick-start the offense.

(Photo by Ian Koski/Nationals Daily News)

In the fifth, the Nats reached Davis for four runs on five consecutive singles, cutting the lead to 10-5.  After Rodriguez' RBI single and a walk to RF Justin Maxwell, Brewers Manager Ken Macha had seen enough.  Macha lifted his starter that was staked to a ten-run lead before he took the mound, one out before he would qualify for the win.

The Nats got two more in the seventh against Claudio Vargas (W, 1-0, 10.38) with two outs.  Josh Willingham singled to start the rally, and Rodriguez doubled to put runners at second and third.  Pinch-hitter Ian Desmond doubled to plate both runners, which cut the lead to 10-7.

Kennedy followed with a sharply hit single to medium center field, and third base coach Pat Listach sent Desmond to challenge Gomez' throwing arm.

Gomez would win.

The throw came in perfect to catcher Zaun, and after a violent collision where both players tumbled, Desmond was out, ending the inning.

Four consecutive hits resulted in just two runs, and the Nats would not score again.

The Nationals did take the series with Milwaukee, winning the first two games.  But they need to figure out what's wrong with Marquis, and quickly.  The Nats were counting on 180-plus dependable innings out of him in 2010.  So far, he's only managed eight and one-third innings in three starts.

The Nats welcome the Colorado Rockies for a four-game set, starting tomorrow at 7:05 pm.  Craig Stammen (0-0, 15.63) takes on Aaron Cook (0-1, 5.56) for the Rockies.

NATS NOTES:  Riggleman advised the media that Batista would not be available tomorrow, but that the rest of the pen, rested due to Livan Hernandez' complete game Saturday, would be available.

Rodriguez and Kennedy both had three-hit games.  Willy Taveras, Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman all had two-hit games.

The Nationals walked once and struck out seven times today.

The loss evens the Nationals record at 6-6.