Monday night, a day after the San Diego Padres drubbed them by nine runs, represented a low point even before the surreal revelation that followed: Reliever Ryan Mattheus had punched his locker Sunday afternoon after allowing the Padres five runs in one inning. Monday afternoon, Mattheus and the Nationals learned he had broken his right hand — his throwing hand — and would be placed on the disabled list.
“It’s pretty embarrassing,” Mattheus said. “I let the whole Washington Nationals organization down by doing something stupid.”
A pitching staff already in disarray called in reinforcements for Tuesday. The Nationals sent down outfielder Eury Perez and called up left-handed reliever Fernando Abad and right-hander Yunesky Maya to fill out an over-taxed bullpen.
“Today,” Manager Davey Johnson said, “was awful tough.”
With Ross Detwiler shelved with an oblique strain, Johnson gave Duke his first major league start since July 2011. He last 31
3innings and allowed seven hits before he yielded to Stammen. The Giants kept mashing, pushing across two runners Stammen inherited and adding one more on Brandon Belt’s mammoth solo homer in the fifth.
The Nationals’ lineup, meantime, floundered again. Sinker-balling right-hander Ryan Vogelsong staggered into his start having not reached the fifth inning since April. He shut the Nationals out for five innings, allowing three hits and leaving only after a fastball fractured his right hand during an at-bat. Four Giants relievers faced the minimum over the final four innings. The Nationals entered with a .292 on-base percentage, and it fell to .289.
Monday afternoon in the visitors’ clubhouse, the Nationals had held the hitters’ meeting that accompanies the start of every series, a gathering for the purpose of reviewing the opposing pitching staff. This meeting was not routine. Shortstop Ian Desmond and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the two players with the longest tenures in Washington, spoke up.
Following the loss, Zimmerman provided to reporters only an abridged version of his message: “Relax and play,” he said. Desmond focused on the idea that every hitter, like last year, needed to use the individual that brings them success.
“When things don’t go good, it’s easy to point the finger,” Desmond said. “I just wanted to express to the guys, hey, do what you do best. That’s all we can ask. If everybody does the best job they can, at the end of the day we’re going to be a pretty good ball club. Right now, it takes hitting, pitching and defense to win ballgames, and we’re doing one of the three sporadically. There’s no doubt in my mind it’s going to turn around. But at this point, it’s starting to get a little bit frustrating. At the same time, this is a long season. This is not a game for the mentally weak.”