Road woes continue for Nationals who lose, 4-1, to Braves

Fan interference on the road is just another incident that dogs Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals.
Fan interference on the road is just another incident that dogs Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals. (Kevin C. Cox/getty Images)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010

ATLANTA -- The Washington Nationals will not play another road game for 15 days, a fortnight and a day away from the opposing stadiums that effectively derailed the first half of their season. Their final road swing of the season's first half ended Wednesday night with a game marked by the strange (two players switched positions in the middle of the seventh inning) and the familiar (the Nationals lost).

After the Atlanta Braves beat them, 4-1, before 20,091 at Turner Field, the Nationals still had not won a series on the road since May 12. They are 14-29 away from Nationals Park this year, a staggering 5-22 since May 15. Following one of their most complete victories of the season, the Nationals squandered scoring chances, walked or hit seven batters and lost, along with the series, any momentum they had gathered.

The Nationals at least could go home for the final 10 games before the all-star break, and they could hope that may straighten out their season.

"We need something," first baseman Adam Dunn said. "We're not playing up to our capabilities. I don't know why that is. It's not lack of effort. It's not lack of talent. It's not any of that. We're just not play well."

Despite a slow start, the Nationals put themselves in position to potentially win the game. The Nationals left the bases loaded in the fifth inning and stranded two runners in scoring in the sixth. By squeezing just one run out of those opportunities, the Nationals gave themselves little chance.

"It's been like that all year," Dunn said. "I don't know what's going on."

J.D. Martin pitched adequately after a rocky beginning, but the 37 pitches he threw in the first inning squelched any notion of a long outing. Martin's start was neither sharp nor ruinous -- he allowed three earned runs in five innings on six hits and two walks. But he was not himself. Martin had walked two batters in 29 2/3 innings this year. In the first inning, he walked two consecutive Braves. "I was all over the place," Martin said. "I missed a lot of spots today."

The most costly came in the third, against his counterpart, Jair Jurrjens. With a man on third, Jurrjens pulled back a sacrifice bunt and slashed an RBI single past Ryan Zimmerman. Martin had tried to throw a fastball down and in, but when it stayed up and over the plate Jurrjens could drive the ball to left.

Fresh off the disabled list and making his first start since April 29, Jurrjens cruised for four innings. He did not allow a runner past second base, allowed two hits and struck out six, including four of the first six batters he faced. The Nationals finally mounted a rally in the fifth, loading the bases with two outs. Roger Bernadina, though, grounded out to second to end the threat.

In the sixth, the Nationals managed to knock Jurrjens from the game. Zimmerman and Dunn lashed consecutive singles, and after Josh Willingham walked, Jurrjens exited. With Iván Rodríguez coming to the plate, Bobby Cox summoned side-winding right-hander Peter Moylan.

On the first pitch Moylan threw, Rodríguez grounded to short, and the Braves turned a 6-4-3 double play. Zimmerman scored, making it 3-1, but the chances for a big inning had been slashed. Rodríguez had grounded into his 15th double play, the second-highest total in the National League.

"What was the pitch?" Rodríguez said. "The pitch was a strike. That was a great pitch to hit. I hit it hard, right at the shortstop. My job is just to make solid contact, and I hit it good right there."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company