Poor defense has Nationals trailing Braves

For the first two games of the year, the Nationals played solid, error-free defense, giving the impression that their new emphasis on preventing runs might actually work. Today? Not so much.

Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth have misplayed a pair of balls between them, Danny Espinosa has continued to struggle in the field and the Nationals trail the Braves 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth.

Werth had a shot at Alex Gonzalez’s drive in the top of the sixth, but couldn’t get to it, and he and Ankiel miscommunicated about who should throw the ball into the infield. Espinosa caught the throw, and airmailed Ryan Zimmerman at third base. If Jordan Zimmermann hadn’t been backing up the play, Gonzalez would have scored.

Three batters later, after Zimmermann had walked Hudson, Martin Prado launched a drive to right. It would’ve required a great play by Werth, but he couldn’t make the catch, and as Espinosa bobbled a low throw, Hudson scored while Prado went to third.

Zimmermann is done for the day, having allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings. He walked three, but didn’t get much help from his defense; remember, he would have been out of the first inning if Espinosa had made a clean stop and turned a double play there, too.

And the Nationals haven’t done much against Tim Hudson, who’s thrown just 76 pitches in six innings. Todd Coffey is pitching for the Nationals now, and they’ll have to rally if they want to win the series.