Craig Stammen pitched five scoreless innings.  Unfortunately, that was after he'd already allowed four earned runs in his first inning of work.

Four first inning runs were plenty for Kyle Lohse, who held the slumping Washington Nationals to six hits and two runs in his six innings of work, leading the the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-2 victory and sending the Nats to a season-high four game losing streak.

The Nats record is now 20-19, with one game remaining to salvage their pride on the road trip.

The loss clouds the major league debut of reliever Drew Storen, who pitched two-thirds of an inning.  He got former Nat Felipe Lopez to fly out to left on a great catch by Josh Willingham--and hit Ryan Ludwick--before striking out Matt Holliday on a 3-2 sinking fastball.

He threw 13 pitches, seven for strikes.

The team hopes that Storen can be a bridge to the late innings for the Nats, a role that Brian Bruney failed at in his tenure with the team.  The No. 10 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft is the second member of that class to make the big leagues, following Cincinnati's starting pticher Mike Leake.

He won't be the last though, as the debut of No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg is looming, probably just a matter of two weeks.

Storen's promotion is certainly out of need--the Nats have had trouble in the sixth and seventh innings--but also something of a reward for signing quickly, working his way through the minor leagues last summer, and being prepared for the challenge this season by mowing down batters in two different levels of minor leagues.

But the big story in the game tonight, as it has been for the entire losing streak, was lack of offense.  Since breaking out for 14 runs last Thursday against Colorado, the Nats have scored eight runs in their next four ballgames, all losses.

Ian Desmond went 4-for-4 and Adam Kennedy had two hits one spot ahead of Desmond in the order. 

But other than that, the Nats cupboards were bare.

The two-through-five hitters in the order went 0-for-15 with one walk.  Nats pinch-hitters were 0-for3. 

Mike Morse, recalled yesterday to provide pop off the bench and against left-handed pitchers, went 0-for-2, including a pop up with runners on second and third with one out in the seventh and a ground out to first with runners on first and third with two outs in the ninth.

Stammen's overall numbers don't look too bad, and if the team had been able to hit a little, he might have received a different fate.  He gave up four earned runs on six hits and two walks, striking out four.

But with two outs in the first inning, Stammen walked No. 3 hitter Matt Holliday ahead of Albert Pujols.  The MVP then singled to center field, setting the table for the bottom of the Cards' order.

Colby Rasmus followed with another single, scoring Holliday and moving Pujols to third.  David Freese then sent a ball to the wall in right field, where Willie Harris got his glove on it, but could not pull it in.

It went as a triple, scoring two runs.

Catcher Yadier Molina then dumped a single to right field, and just like that, the Nats were in a hole they would not be able to climb out of.

The Nats wrap up the road trip Tuesday, sending John Lannan (1-2) against perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter (4-1).  Lannan started strong against Colorado his last time out, throwing three shutout innings, but then fell apart after a long delay in the top of the fourth, with his elbow stiffening up in the delay.

NATS NOTES:  Adam Dunn did not start for the second straight game due to flu-like symptons, but did pinch-hit.  Manager Jim Riggleman said after the game he does not expect Dunn to be available to start Tuesday's game.

Pujols finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored.

Matt Capps, working in a non-save situation, gave up two earned runs on three hits in the eighth inning, raising his ERA to 1.77.

The Nats struck out seven times and walked just once.