Another hit, and not in a good way

The frustration is building. And it's not being put to a productive use.

As if yesterday's 8-0 loss wasn't enough, a loss that dropped the Nationals to a 23-22 on the season, manager Davey Johnson told reporters after the beatdown at the hands of the Giants that reliever Ryan Mattheus, one of the Nats' key setup guys, broke his right hand Sunday evening when he punched a locker.

Mattheus had allowed five runs in an inning of work Sunday, more than doubling his ERA, sending it to 4.96. He took his anger out on a locker at Petco Park, but Mattheus and the Nationals are the ones left hurting. I'm guessing the locker is doing just fine.

This further weakens a Nats pitching staff which had already been wildly inconsistent this season. Left-handed reliever Fernando Abad and right-handed starter Yunesky Maya will come up from Triple-A Syracuse to join a depleted bullpen that will be without Zach Duke, Craig Stammen and Henry Rodriguez for today if not the rest of this series because of their use yesterday.

Abad will serve as the lone available left-hander with Duke now needing a couple days of rest, and Maya will become the only rested long reliever.

Mattheus is a talented pitcher and a good teammate who clearly let his emotions get the better of him in a tough moment. But he's got to be far from the only guy in the Nats' clubhouse getting a little tired of what we've all been seeing lately.

The Nats have now been shut out six times this season. They've scored two runs or fewer in 22 of their 45 games.

Yeah, that's right - the Nationals have scored less than three runs in 49 percent of their games thus far. That's no bueno.

Last season, the Nats were only shut out eight times all year. They scored two or fewer runs in 29 percent of their games. They struggled offensively for the early part of the season, but they found a way to stay in ballgames, benefiting from tremendous pitching and clutch hitting.

This season, the pitching has been adequate but inconsistent and the clutch hitting has been almost nonexistent.

The Nats didn't manage a single hit after the fourth inning last night and now have scored just 28 runs in the seventh inning or later all season, an average of 0.22 runs per inning in those situations.

When you're not getting runners in scoring position, moving guys over and scoring runs, you put a heck of a lot of pressure on your pitching staff. Guys go out there and feel like they need to be perfect, and you never want your hurlers to toe the rubber believing they have minimal margin for error.

Johnson also told reporters yesterday that an MRI revealed that right fielder Jayson Werth might need another two weeks before he can return from a strained right hamstring, leaving the Nats searching for someone they can put in the No. 2 spot in the order who can get on base and make things happen.

The offense continues to struggle, and the Nats will now be down one of their better, more consistent relievers and their starting right fielder for a matter of weeks, at a time when they need all the proven performers they can get.

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