There's been a lot of attention paid to the Washington Nationals won-loss record, hovering around .500 the first few weeks at the start of the season. If they can't find a way to beat teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates they certainly won't end up there.
When the Nats don't score five runs or more runs in a game, they don't win. And they continued that trend last night in the Steel City, losing 4-2 in a rainy, sloppy affair along the banks of the Allegheny River.
The Nats actually broke out early on Pirates starter Paul Maholm (W, 1-3, 3.90). Adam LaRoche singled in Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth with one out in the first and things were looking up. But the offensively challenged squad only put four more runners on base all night long.
Pittsburgh got all the runs they needed in the two halves of the bottom of the fourth inning, a rain-delay bifurcating the Pirates at-bat. John Lannan was on the hill for D.C. and got two ground ball outs with a walk to Jose Tabata sandwiched in before the rain. Neil Walker followed with a single to right field, and for some reason Jayson Werth felt like he needed to send the throw home.
The resultant throw ended up missing the cut-off man and skipping away from catcher Wilson Ramos on the wet grass, allowing Tabata -- who had stopped at third -- to trot home with Pittsburgh's first run. Werth was charged an error on the play. A torrent came and halted play for 19 minutes and when play resumed, Lannan did not have his control, walking 1B Steve Pearce. Newly acquired waiver wire pickup Brandon Wood then send a booming shot to the right center alley; both Walker and Pearce scored.
Catcher Chris Snyder followed by sneaking a ground ball past third baseman Brain Bixler to drive in Wood, and that's all she wrote.
Lannan (L, 2-2, 4.05) had his moments of sharpness in this game, but coming back out from the rain delay really seemed to mess with his command, as he had trouble getting the ball down after the rain subsided. He finished 5 2/3 innings, continuing the Nats streak of being the only team in the league to have every starter complete at least five innings.
But the other side of that is performance, and Lannan ended up allowing four earned runs on five hits and -- the killer -- two walks, both of which scored in that fateful fourth inning.
The Nats actually had the tying runs on base in the top of the ninth against former teammate Joel Hanrahan, courtesy of a Werth walk and Ramos single, but pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel struck out to strand both runners and end the game. It was Hanrahan's sixth save of the season.
The Nationals record now stands one game below .500 at 10-11. If they don't find some hitting soon, it might be the last time they are that close to that magic number for the season.
THE GOOD: Sean Burnett, Chad Gaudin and Todd Coffey combined for 2 1/3 scoreless relief. Jayson Werth went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run.
THE BAD: Michael Morse. After looking like he might break out over the weekend -- upping his average over .250 -- he went right back to struggling, going 0-for-4 and stranding four runners. He did have a nice catch to rob Chris Snyder of a home run at the six foot wall in left field though.
THE UGLY: Nats pinch-hitters went 0-for-2. For the season, Nats pinch-hitters are now a pathetic 1-for-22. They are the only team in the N.L. that does not have an RBI by a pinch-hitter.
THE STATS: Five hits, three walks, 10 Ks. 1-for-3 with RISP, 5 LOB, 1 GIDP. E: Werth (2), Desmond (7).
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:05 pm against the New York Mets at Nats Park. Jordan Zimmermann (1-3, 3.70) v. Chris Young (1-0, 1.46).