Another early deficit (Nats still trail after six)

The Nationals and Cardinals have played just half an inning this afternoon, and we’ve already gotten a sample of the same issues that have been plaguing this Nats team for much of the first 20 games of the season.

Stephen Strasburg allowed three hits and a walk in the top of the first, Anthony Rendon committed his second error in four big league games and the Nats trail 3-0 midway through the first inning.

Strasburg got a bit of bad luck in the inning, allowing bloop hits to Matt Carpenter (who doubled to left leading off the game) and Yadier Molina (who plated two with a single down the right field line), but he was also all over the place.

The right-hander needed a visit from pitching coach Steve McCatty just four batters into the game and was missing wildly with his fastball.

Strasburg threw 26 pitches in the first, 15 for strikes.

He didn’t get much help from Rendon when the rookie third baseman tried to start a 5-4-3 double play, only to send his throw to second wide of the mark. Danny Espinosa was pulled off the bag, all runners were safe and a run came in to give the Cardinals a three-run lead.

It marked the Nats’ 19th error of the season.

Rendon did then respond to turn a 5-3 double play a hitter later, but the Cardinals had already jumped out to a nice lead by that point.

The Nationals have only scored three runs or more twice in their last six games. If they don’t do so today, they’ll have their fourth straight loss.

Update: Ian Desmond tried whatever he could to get the Nats jumpstarted in the second inning.

He laid down a perfect bunt base hit with one out and then tried to steal second on Jaime Garcia’s first move. Garcia picked Desmond off first, but the Nats shortstop hustled into second and beat the throw from first baseman Allen Craig, giving him his third stolen base of the season.

The Nats couldn’t bring Desmond around, however. Danny Espinosa gave a Garcia curveball a good ride, sending it to the wall in right-center, but it was hauled in by Shane Robinson. Anthony Rendon then struck out swinging to end the inning.

Rendon is now 1-for-12 with five strikeouts in his brief major league career.

It’s still 3-0 Cards mid-three.

Update II: We’re through 4 1/2 and the Nationals have two hits. Both of those runners have been left in scoring position.

The Nats have not scored a run in their last 18 innings and have just two runs in their last 32 frames.

Strasburg has really settled in, having retired nine in a row and facing the minimum over the last four innings. He’s through five innings on 78 pitches, but so far has gotten absolutely no help.

Update III: The Nats finally got on the board in the sixth, bringing across their first run in 20 innings. But with the tying runs aboard and two outs, Desmond struck out swinging on a Joe Kelly curveball, stranding two runners and leaving it a 3-1 Cardinals lead.

As a whole, the Nats have gone 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position today.

Strasburg remains in the game to start the seventh, having thrown just 87 pitches through six, but the Nats’ bats still have some work to do if this team is to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.

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