Nats limp home after 5-5 road trek on four-game skid

So much for momentum.

The Nationals finished off a 5-5 road trip this afternoon with a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals, who have taken 12 of the last 14 regular season games between the teams. It’s Washington’s fourth straight loss after starting the trek 5-2 through San Diego and San Francisco.

Doug Fister saw a streak of five straight wins halted, Ryan Zimmerman made a couple of nice plays in his first career game at first base and the Nats had a chance to do some damage in the ninth inning, but could only come up with a bases-loaded walk before Jayson Werth’s foul pop ended it with the sacks full.

After an off-day Monday for “A Night at the Park,” Zimmerman’s annual fundraiser for the ZiMS Foundation at Nationals Park, the suddenly respectable Houston Astros arrive for a two-game series, followed by four games with the first-place Braves.

Center fielder Denard Span, who was scratched from today’s starting lineup because of back stiffness, told Dan Kolko of in St. Louis that the issue isn’t serious and that he expects to be ready for Tuesday’s game against the Astros.

Here’s the reaction from the clubhouse:

Manager Matt Williams on whether right-hander Doug Fister was struggling more than normal with his command?: “No, I don’t think so. He got a couple of balls up in the zone. I thought he pitched well. The two homers - the two-run homer and the solo homer - was enough for them today. But he battled through it and continued to go out there and we had a chance.”

Williams on the ninth-inning rally: “Of course, you never want to have a ninth-inning rally against that guy (Trevor Rosenthal). But overall, you go through this road trip the way we went through it, it’s OK. It could have been better, but we came out of it all right. Guys are tired, off-day will come at a good time.”

Williams on the offensive struggles by the Nats in their four-game skid: “It’s the ebbs and flows of the game. The first game, we were really in - they scored one and we didn’t score any. That can make a difference in the series, too. But it’s ebbs and flows. It’s that time of year where heavy legs start to set in a little bit. The off-day will come at a good time for us. Offense, the first two stops of the road trip, (was) pretty good. This stop wasn’t so good, but we’ll regroup and get ready.”

Williams on Ryan Zimmerman’s debut at first base: “Pretty good, did fine. He’s natural over there, has no issues. So he’s fine.”

Fister on his outing: “Basically , it comes down to poor execution. I didn’t do my job today. I got to do better when it comes to critical pitches, and that’s essentially what it comes down to. Guys were out there, they were fighting for me, and I’ve got to go out there and execute.”

Fister on the walks his issued: “It’s always frustrating for me to walk a guy. But the two home runs were the two biggest things for me tonight. The sac fly. Those were the pitches I have to execute better. ... The home run to (Matt) Adams, I was trying to get it in the dirt and that didn’t happen. The home run to (Matt) Holliday, I was trying to get a strike, trying to get him to swing at it, and the ball got too much of the plate and I had to pay for it.”

Left fielder Scott Hairston on what problem the Nats had with Cards lefty Jaime Garcia: “We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities. ... I don’t know how many runners we left on base. Quite a few, and that can’t happen. Their pitcher was good. He made his pitches, his changeup was on today, he hit his spots for the most part. Whenever we did hit a ball hard, it seemed it was at somebody.”

Hairston on why he wound up with a single on a ball hit off the left field wall: “I thought I got it (for a home run). I’m not going to lie. I probably should have been on second on that. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen next time. I haven’t ran the bases in a while, so it’s just one of those things where I was just caught in the moment. Wasn’t trying to show anybody up. I just hit it, was hoping it would go out and I got caught looking. Next time, I got to look down and just run and let everything take care of itself.”

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