Jake Peavy, White Sox defeat Nationals, 1-0

Nationals starter J.D. Martin fires home in the first inning of his tough-luck loss to the White Sox. Martin went six innings in the 1-0 defeat.
Nationals starter J.D. Martin fires home in the first inning of his tough-luck loss to the White Sox. Martin went six innings in the 1-0 defeat. (Alex Brandon/associated Press)
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By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Making just his fourth start of the season for the Washington Nationals, J.D. Martin pitched more than adequately enough to win on Saturday. Problem was, he got no support at the plate from his teammates, and as the Nationals' offensive woes continue to mount, the losses do as well.

This time it was a 1-0 loss to the visiting Chicago White Sox, who got a masterful performance from their starter, Jake Peavy, in a three-hitter. The Nationals dropped their fifth straight, matching a season high, and lost for the 23rd time in their past 34 games.

Washington Manager Jim Riggleman was not in the dugout to witness the conclusion of another game in which his charges floundered with the bat. That's because home plate umpire Sam Holbrook ejected him in the eighth as reliever Miguel Batista warmed up on the mound for the Nationals (31-38). Riggleman had come out earlier in the game to discuss a close play at first base and in this instance said he was voicing his displeasure with the calling of balls and strikes.

Riggleman did stick around long enough to see six strong innings from Martin, who yielded one run and eight hits. He struck out a career-high six and did not issue a walk while again keeping Washington within striking distance.

"J.D.'s done a good job," Riggleman said. "That's three ballgames that he's kept us in, he's given us a chance to win. He's really done a good job. . . . He's kind of perfecting his craft out there."

Martin had plenty of time to prepare for this start in front of 36,487 at Nationals Park, having pitched once in 16 days prior to Saturday. That prolonged rest resulted from a pair of off days on June 7 and June 14, when the Nationals shuffled their starting rotation. In his most recent start before Saturday, Martin lasted 7 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs, including six earned, on nine hits in a 7-1 loss to Cleveland, the team that drafted him, on June 12. He threw 113 pitches in his longest outing of the season.

Martin had been much better in his initial two starts, surrendering three earned runs in 11 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, but did not get much help offensively. That had been the trend for Martin over his past six starts entering Saturday. In those games, he received just 12 runs, and thus it's no surprise he had not recorded a victory during that stretch.

The Nationals had given Martin a look during spring training as they were assembling the starting rotation for opening day, but they sent him to Class AAA Syracuse to begin the season. There he encountered back trouble, with two bulging disks that necessitated an MRI exam, forcing him to miss a pair of starts. Martin nonetheless went 2-2 with a 3.51 ERA in seven starts and earned a call-up on May 29, with starter Scott Olsen healing from stiffness in his shoulder that sent him to the 15-day disabled list.

Martin's first three innings against the White Sox were reminiscent of those performances. He faced two batters over the minimum and got Alexei Ramírez and Juan Pierre looking to end the second and third innings, respectively.

The fourth inning was not as kind to Martin, who ran into trouble after a leadoff bloop single by light-hitting Omar Vizquel that landed just beyond the reach of second baseman Cristian Guzmán and shortstop Ian Desmond. Mark Kotsay followed with a sharp grounder that Desmond dove to stop, but he could not get the lead runner and had to settle for throwing to first for the out.

Martin struck out Andruw Jones looking for the second out, but Carlos Quentin slapped a single to left field that allowed Vizquel to score for the only run of the game. Martin got out of the inning by fanning Ramírez on three consecutive pitches.

The White Sox (33-34) went quietly in the fifth, but in the sixth, Martin showed signs of tiring after needing 11 pitches to retire Kotsay, who led off the inning. Jones, the next batter, promptly sent the first pitch to him into right field for a single that dropped in front of a charging Roger Bernadina. Martin struck out Quentin, but A.J. Pierzynski singled to left before Ramírez hit a hard grounder to Ryan Zimmerman, who stepped on third to end the threat.

That ended the day for Martin (0-3), whose final tally included 97 pitches, 65 for strikes. Relievers Sean Burnett, Batista and Tyler Walker blanked Chicago the rest of the way, but with zero offensive support, those efforts went to waste.

"I'm not happy about the loss, but it's something to work off of," Martin said of his performance less than one day after Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg pitched a gem in a 2-1, 11-inning loss to the White Sox.

During this five-game slide, the Nationals have struck out 47 times, including four by Zimmerman on Saturday, and walked just seven times, three of those intentional. Washington, which failed to score for the second time and equaled its fewest hits in a game this season, has scored 11 runs during the losing streak, once in the past 20 innings, while batting below .200.

Peavy, meantime, tossed the fourth shutout of his career and eighth complete game. It was the first in both categories for him this season as he improved to 6-5. Peavy retired 20 straight batters after giving up a one-out single to Bernadina in the second inning.

"He's a good pitcher. He obviously has good stuff," Zimmerman said of the 2007 NL Cy Young winner with San Diego. "He's been one of the best over the last five or six years, so sometimes they beat you. Today I don't know if he beat me. He practically just kicked my ass. It's going to happen."

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