The starting pitcher threw 115 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. Three lead off walks came around to score.  A missed sign by the third base coach at a critical juncture killed a rally. The left-handed reliever once again couldn't do his job.  The flamethrower allowed a run without giving up a base hit.  An offense that, despite six walks from the opposition's starter in less than four innings, couldn't push across more than one run against him.

These are the things that led to today's 5-2 loss to the Florida Marlins.  And the Washington Nationals, whose hopes for finishing at or hear the .500 mark are dwindling, better figure out something fast, because the N.L.'s hottest team, the New York Mets, come in Friday for a three-game weekend series before the 96-win pace Atlanta Braves next week.

Manager Davey Johnson looks more confused, frustrated, and downright sad after each successive loss.  He's never had a team that has "underachieved" like this before, he said Wednesday night.  But a look up and down the roster reveals more players playing closer to their career numbers than not.  The two glaring exceptions are Johnson's two best players.  Ryan Zimmerman seems to be heating up, while the Nats continue to wait for Jayson Werth to do the same.

The streak in June where this team won 13 out of 15 games gave everyone in NatsTown thrills, but it also set up unrealistic expectations on this club. Before the streak, the Nats were playing at a .428 clip, a 69-win pace.  Since the streak ended it's been a little worse than that, including losses now in five straight and seven out of eight.  Overall, the team is still on a 76 win pace. But with things seemingly spiraling out of control, that number seems in real jeopardy now.

As for today, starter John Lannan (L, 7-7, 3.63) battled his way though 5 2/3 innings, and he was far from sharp.  He issued free passes to the leadoff hitters in the third and fourth innings, btoh of whom scored.  A solo home run to Mike Stanton and a double to backup catcher Brett Hayes in the sixth ended his day one out from another quality start.  But Sean Burnett once again could not do his job, allowing an inherited runner to score on consecutive base hits before finally ending the inning.

In the eighth, Henry Rodriguez allowed the deficit to increase without giving up a hit.  He walked the first batter, allowed him to steal uncontested, threw a wild pitch that moved the runner over to third, who eventually scored on a ground out to the right side. In his last 9 2/3 innings, Hot Rod has given up 10 earned runs and walked nine with three wild pitches.

As for the offense, it was, once again, offensive.  Take out Ryan Zimmerman's four hits and the rest of the team combined for just three more, two by Jayson Werth.  In fact, both of the Nats runs were "driven in" by Werth, the first on a pop up to right field that Stanton couldn't pick up in the hazy sky that fell for a single, the second on a soft liner to center field. 

The Nats had a chance to do some real damage in the fourth, with runners at first and second with two down and Danny Espinosa in a 3-1 count.  But due to missed communications between Johnson and third base coach Bo Porter, the Nats tried a double steal and Ian Desmond was gunned out at third to kill the rally.

That was the bulk sum of offense the Nats could muster against lefty Brad Hand, who walked six in 3 2/3 innings, and a parade of Marlins relievers.

The Nationals have six more games on this homestand and have fallen six games below that elusive .500 mark at 49-55.  Maybe the trade deadline has a few players playing scared.  Maybe the pitching, which carried the Nats much of the way so far, has finally run out of gas.  One thing's for certain though: this team is less like the one that had that hot 15-game streak than the one that's played the other 89.

THE GOOD:  Ryan Zimmerman.  His four hit day matches his career high.  Hopefully his power will return soon too.

THE BAD:  Jonny Gomes, in his first game for the Nationals, went 0-for-3 with a K and left five on base.

THE UGLY:  Henry Rodriguez.  He got through his first inning fine, but the second inning was atrocious. He's a liability right now.

THE STATS:  Seven hits, seven walks, eight strikeouts.  2-for-6 with RISP, 11 LOB, one GIDP.  E: Espinosa (7).

NEXT GAME:  Friday at 7:05 against the New York Mets from Nats Park.  Chien-Ming Wang makes his much anticipated return to MLB after two-plus years in recovery from shoulder problems.  He will face Dillon Gee (9-3, 3.75).


  1. Anonymous // July 28, 2011 at 5:47 PM  

    Where are all of these columns now that we read a month ago? The ones that said that Johnson could do no wrong and was the savior of the franchise.

    If Rizzo had been decent he would have at least talked to Riggleman to tell him where they stood. That is all that Jim wanted. But Rizzo couldn't be bothered and now the team is in a tailspin.

  2. bdrube // July 28, 2011 at 6:17 PM  

    Anon- Screw Riggleman...he made his bed by quitting on the team.

    If you want to criticize Rizzo, criticize him for trading away minor league depth for a veteran role player of little value to a last place team. We should be DUMPING our crappy veterans, not adding to their number (though I'm delighted to finally be rid of Stairs).