Turn the page, put it behind us, tomorrow’s another day - pick the appropriate move-past-it cliche of your choice and it probably fits the aftermath of the clunker the Nationals endured Sunday, a 10-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Splitting a four-game weekend series definitely left a worse taste in the Nationals’ mouths than they’d have had winning three of four heading into a July 4 date with the Chicago Cubs.
“Sometimes things work out great and sometimes they don’t,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmeman. “It’s just kind of the game. ... It’s important to get some of that momentum back, just play good baseball and put ourselves in a good position”
Zimmerman insists that the Nats that have dropped five of seven games under new manager Davey Johnson are the same club with the same potential as the team that win 13 of 15 before Jim Riggleman’s surprising resignation. But Sunday’s shellacking once again exposed the warts that Johnson inherited, the imperfections that, for now, have his charges 42-43 instead of on the right side of .500.
When the Nationals don’t get decent starting pitching, they’re digging a hole that’s often inescapable, and the 1 1/3 innings that Jason Marquis gave them against the Pirates isn’t the kind of performance that gets it done. Marquis pretty much wrote off his shortest outing of 2011 as an aberration, but the debacle’s realities are pretty difficult to ignore: seven runs, six of them earned, on eight hits and an 8-0 deficit before Washington had even batted for the second time.
“It was just one of those days,” he said. “I”m obviously not happy about it, but it’s one start in a long season. I’ve been through it before. It happens.”
So do injuries, which are starting to pile up for the Nats, especially on an offense that’s barely producing. First baseman Michael Morse got the afternoon off after being hit in the left forearm by a pitch in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, his protestations that he could play falling on Johnson’s deaf - and decidedly conservative - ears.
But Jayson Werth led off the sixth inning by taking a pitch off the protective sheath he wears on his left wrist. With Werth scuffling along at .223 and already 0-for-2, and with the outcome in little doubt, Johnson withstood his right fielder’s pleas to stay in the game and removed him for pinch runner Brian Bixler.
“It’s real sore,” Johnson said after the game when asked for a progress report on Werth. “He’s a tough guy, doesn’t want to even get an X-ray. We’ll calm it down for a day or two.”
Johnson brushed off the small rash of injuries as “just baseball,” and Werth declined to talk to reporters after the game. Johnson doesn’t think Werth will be able to play Monday, and perhaps Tuesday, as well. Some time off could be just what Werth needs after notching just one extra-base hit in his past nine games and not homering since going deep in back-to-back games June 15-16. Since Johnson took the managerial reins, Werth is 4-for-25.
“I think he’ll probably be down,” Johnson said when asked if Werth would play Monday.
Washington’s offense struggled against journeyman Kevin Correia, who secured his 11th win of the season by allowing two runs on six hits in six innings. The lone blemish on his afternoon was a two-run homer by Wilson Ramos in the second.
The Nats were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They were 5-for-34 in such situations over the four-game series against the Pirates.
“It’s getting kind of frustrating, to say the least,” Johnson said.
Just another reason to quickly wipe away the disappointment before the Cubs arrive.
Shortstop Ian Desmond sounded as if he’d already forgotten what went wrong over the weekend.
“We’re thinking long-term,” Desmond said. “Not today, not tomorrow - we’re thinking towards the end of the year. We know what we can do and we’re in a position to do it.”