Nats fall back to .500, know "it's time to turn it on"

BALTIMORE - After a 2-0 loss to the Orioles,= in which his team managed just three hits and played some shaky defense, Nationals manager Davey Johnson didn't have a whole lot to say.

Johnson wasn't by any means curt with reporters after tonight's game, but he was brief when discussing the latest frustrating loss shouldered by his team, which now owns a .500 record.

How brief? Johnson's postgame press conference lasted just 84 seconds.

"We got a bunt and a broken-bat hit and one hard ground ball," Johnson said. "We should swing the bats better than we did tonight. But (Orioles starter Freddy Garcia) kept us off with a lot of offspeed pitches, but we helped him out by swinging at balls. And that was the story today."

Garcia, whose best days in the majors are well behind him, morphed into a 2001 version of himself tonight, leaning heavily on his nasty splitter that kept the Nationals at bay through eight scoreless innings. Ian Desmond equated the movement of the pitch to that of a knuckleball, going as far as to say that Garcia resembled last year's National League Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey.

"I think the humidity and the tackiness on the ball, his fingers, there's probably a little bit of sweat going on there, that pitch was pretty unbelievable tonight," Desmond said.

The Nats' inability to put up anything offensively made Dan Haren the tough-luck loser in a game in which he allowed just two runs over 7 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking none.

"Three or four hits, whatever we had, I think we're way better than that," Danny Espinosa said. "But at the same time, we ran into a hot team. Dan pitched an unbelievable game. He kept those guys off-balance. They had a couple hard-hit balls that were at people, but for the most part, Dan did a great job. We've got to be able to put up more runs for Dan."

The O's got to Haren for a run in the third inning when Nick Markakis smacked a two-out double to right that brought in Ryan Flaherty to make it 1-0. They added an insurance run in the eighth on Manny Machado's RBI double - his major league-leading 25th two-bagger - and the Nats couldn't touch Jim Johnson in the ninth. Johnson picked up his 17th save for the Orioles.

At exactly the one-third mark of the 2013 campaign, the Nats, who were picked by many experts as the World Series favorites this season, have a 27-27 record.

They sit 5 1/2 games back of first place in the National League East after today's action and will go into Atlanta preparing to take on a Braves team that has won 11 of its last 14 games.

"We've got to make adjustments," Desmond said. "It's not getting any easier. That's one through nine, the bullpen, the starting rotation. We all got to get better. It's no more complacency. It's time to turn it on. Sometimes a little adversity like this can break teams apart. We're going to stick together. As a team, we're going to figure it out.

"We just need to play better. We're capable of playing better, and it's time to go."

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