It's getting to the point when the Washington Nationals come to bat with runners in scoring position, they may as well just lay their bats down. The results would be just about the same.

Last night the problem continued, as the Nats went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranding 10 runners in all, in a 4-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds before 35,089 at Great American Ballpark.

The loss drops the Nationals record to 62-68 as they fall into a tie with the New York Mets for third in the N.L. East.

In their last four games, all losses, the Nats are 2-for-42 with runners in scoring position.  If the Nats simply matched their season batting average of .241 (next-to-last in the N.L.) over those 42 at bats, they would have produced 10 hits.  It's almost silly.

The Nationals stranded 10 runners tonight, bringing the four game total to a whopping 34.  They got at least two runners on in each of the first three innings but failed to score.  Wilson Ramos finally came through, hitting an opposite-field three run homer run off starter Dontrelle Willis in the fourth inning.  But the ineptitude returned, as the Nats left runners in scoring position in every inning from the seventh on.

Nats starter Chien-Ming Wang once again kept his team in the game.  He wasn't particularly sharp -- issuing four walks to go along with six hits -- but he but allowed just one earned run in six innings, striking out four.  However, Wang faltered in his last inning, getting two quick outs then walking the No. 8 hitter, SS Paul Janish, and giving up a hit to Willis, setting up an RBI single by Brandon Phillips to cut the lead to 3-2.

Wang got the final out and left with the lead after six innings.  Unfortunately, when the offense isn't working you need perfect relief pitching, and the Nats didn't get that last night.

Tom Gorzelanny was brought on in the seventh, and the little-used lefty couldn't get out of the inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk.  In fact, it was his walk to lefty Jay Bruce that came around to score.

In the bottom of the ninth, manager Davey Johnson elected to go to Collin Balester, keeping his best reliever, Drew Storen, in the pen in case of a save situation.  It never got to that.  Balester gave up three consecutive one-out singles, the last to Miguel Cairo, which brought home the winning run.

It's hard to blame Balester for the loss.  No, he didn't get his job done on this evening.  But the Nats had plenty of opportunity to extend a precarious lead against a mediocre pitcher and failed to do so.  Willis walked five batters and gave up six hits in seven innings.  All but three were wasted, left on base, as has so often been the case this week.

THE GOOD:  Despite putting runners on the corners with one out, Sean Burnett struck out Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, two of the most dangerous hitters in the N.L., back-to-back to end the eighth inning to keep the game tied at three.

THE BAD:  Ryan Zimmerman was 0-for-5 with three Ks and six left on base.

THE UGLY:  There's just no getting around it.  1-for-13 with RISP and 10 left on base is miserable.  Zim stranded six. Morse stranded five.  Werth stranded three.  Ramos, despite a three-run homer, also stranded four.

THE STATS:  Eight hits, six walks, five strikeouts.  1-for-13 w/RISP, 10 LOB, one GIDP>  E: Desmond (22)

NEXT GAME:  Saturday against the Reds at 7:10 pm.  Ross Detwiler (2-3, 2.61) faces Mike Leake (10-8, 4.09).

NATS NOTES:  RHP Ryan Mattheus was placed on the 15-day D.L. with a right shoulder strain.  There was no immediate corresponding move.  During the game, several sources reported that 1B Chris Marrero would be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse before Saturday's game for his Major League debut.   Marrero is hitting .300/.375/.449 with 14 homers and 69 RBIs in 546 plate appearances for the Chiefs.

Chris Marrero takes a cut with the Nats during a spring training game. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)