A much more tame start tonight (Nats lose 2-0)

BALTIMORE - Through the first five innings of last night’s ballgame, the Nationals had put up six runs and smacked eight hits.

They’d slugged four home runs - three of which came off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman - and had a nice 6-2 lead.

Through the first five innings tonight, the Nats have yet to score and they’ve managed just two hits off Orioles starter Freddy Garcia.

Garcia has struck out five Nats hitters - including Zimmerman once - and the Orioles have a 1-0 lead.

Over their last nine innings, dating back to the sixth inning last night, the Nats have put just two runners on base. Those two runners both reached in the second inning tonight, when Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond singled with no outs, but both guys were left stranded in scoring position.

Garcia came into tonight with just nine strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings this season. He already has five in just five frames tonight and has only thrown 66 pitches to this point.

Last night, the Nationals’ sixth through ninth hitters - Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Kurt Suzuki and Danny Espinosa - went 1-for-16 with six strikeouts, the lone hit being Espinosa’s infield single.

Tonight, that group is 0-for-7 with two strikeouts.

Dan Haren has put up five solid innings himself, scattering five hits, allowing one run and striking out four.

He’ll be out of luck if the Nats’ offense doesn’t wake up soon, though.

Update: Haren’s now through six innings having allowed just the single run on six hits.

His performance might get overlooked because of the Nats’ complete lack of offensive production, but Haren has done a very nice job tonight against a very potent Orioles lineup in a very dangerous ballpark for pitchers.

He’s faced just one over the minimum his last three innings of work and is at 84 pitches after six. No one is throwing in the bullpen as the Nats take their cuts in the top-half of the seventh, but there are a few guys stirring.

Update II: It’s still a 1-0 Orioles lead mid-way through the eighth inning, as the Nationals have been able to manage almost nothing offensively against the 36-year-old Garcia.

The veteran right-hander doesn’t work on velocity anymore at this point in his career, working in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball. But Garcia has found a way to completely shut down the Nats’ bats.

They’ve put just three runners on all night, and Garcia has now retired 21 of the last 22 he’s seen.

Dating back to last night, just three of the last 40 Nats hitters to come to the plate have reached.

Update III: Not much went right for Davey Johnson’s bunch in this 2-0 loss to the Orioles.

The Nats managed just three hits and were shut out for the seventh time this season. They weren’t charged with an error but played sloppy defense, letting two pop-ups drop (one in fair territory).

Haren did his job, but didn’t get much help around him.

The Nats were shut out for the seventh time this season and fall back to .500 through their first 54 games with a big three-game set in Atlanta looming.

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